Environment

Barbuda Warblers survived Irma

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

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Fears among Caribbean bird conservationists that the Barbuda Warbler, a Near-Threatened species endemic to the tiny island of the same name, did not survive the ravages of Hurricane Irma have been allayed with the recording of eight of the grey-and-yellow birds.

Regional BirdsCaribbean has reported the find after a one-day survey trip to Barbuda with a team from Environment Awareness Group (EAG) and the Department of the Environment on September 22.

The first bird was spotted by EAG's Andrea Otto and colleague Junior Prosper in a fallen acacia tree.

“I saw a flash of grey…” Otto reported. “I whispered to Junior – it's a Barbuda Warbler!”

It took them a while, but the team later managed to get a good view and confirmation of the smart little Warbler's grey and yellow plumage as irrefutable proof of its survival.

The birds were recorded in a relatively small area near the secondary school in Codrington, the main settlement on the island, the conservation group reported.

“As the only endemic species on the island and country of Antigua and Barbuda, the Barbuda Warbler has a special place in the small community's hearts. The bird has a perky posture and constantly flits around, searching for insects in trees, thorny scrubs and coastal areas. Its estimated population is between 1,000 and 2,500, but before the hurricane its population trends were not determined,” Dr Lisa Sorenson, executive director, BirdsCaribbean said in an email.

Sorenson said the groups will be conducting bird and wildlife surveys in the island over the next five weeks in order to cover the habitat and provide an estimate of the Warbler's population size.

“Ornithologists and other skilled birders in the region and beyond will assist with an intensive survey effort in the coming weeks and months. The team will also devise a plan to help the Barbuda Warbler and other wildlife on the island recover, such as replanting native trees and mangroves that were destroyed in the hurricane,” she said.

Hurricane Irma battered Barbuda with 185 mph winds on Wednesday, September 6, leaving most of the population homeless and a landscape ravaged by wind and surging waves.

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