More than 200 ornithologists, biologists, bird guides and amateur birders flocked to the University of Costa Rica (UCR) last Thursday for the inaugural session of the second Costa Rican Ornithology Conference (II Congreso Costarricense de Ornitología).
Co-presented by the Costa Rica Union of Ornithologists (Unión de Ornitólogos de Costa Rica) and UCR’s Biology School, a who’s who of the Costa Rican birding world was on hand at the event, including Costa Rica’s most eminent ornithologist, Julio E. Sánchez.
Sánchez, a recently retired, long-time curator of birds at the National Museum, is now president of the Union of Ornithologists. This non-profit, non-governmental group, founded in 2006, now numbers 100 or so members, dedicated to promoting biodiversity conservation, primarily through the study of birds and their habitats.
A major recurring theme of the five-day congress is the effects of urbanization, man-made noise and development on bird habitat.
This subject is central to the Union’s mission, namely promoting biodiversity conservation. One of the group’s first initiatives was to identify and establish the country’s primary Important Bird Areas – or IBAs – and start lobbying to protect them.
The IBA program began in the 1980s as a conservation strategy developed by BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations. Today there are IBA programs in more than 100 countries. So far, using scientific protocols set by BirdLife, the Union has identified 21 IBAs, covering 54 percent of Costa Rica.
The conference also included the chance to get outside and see some real-time birds on early-morning birding walks around the UCR campus, led by a distinguished trio of birding guides, all Union members – Julio Sánchez himself, along with Esteban Biamonte and Luis Sandoval.
The Union has published an informative booklet about its goals, called “Participativa: Participemos en la Conservación de las Aves en Costa Rica.”