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Shorebirds in the Yucatán: endangered travelers

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Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

The sargassum problem along the coast has become a crisis for Yucatán’s coastal bird populations

These shorebirds are characterized by their ability to fly long distances to their breeding, nesting, resting, and feeding sites. Yucatán’s natural diversity and weather conditions have created a breeding ground for birds from all over the world.

The Yucatán Peninsula is a popular place for birdwatching tours. Photo: Courtesy

Unfortunately, their population has begun to fall in recent years.

The beaches of the Mexican Caribbean are famous for their golden sand, but now, in the spring and summer, the Yucatán Peninsula’s coast between Cancun and Tulum are filled with beach-invading sargassum.

Since 2011, large quantities have been seen off the Caribbean coast, from the Lesser Antilles to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. In the open ocean, sargassum blocks sunlight from reaching coral reefs, and as they decompose, the algae release compounds that harm marine life. 

Shorebirds are characterized by their ability to fly long distances to their breeding grounds as flamingos do. Photo: Courtesy

In terms of the bird population in Yucatán, 18% of the total is in danger of extinction as a result of habitat loss, the introduction of invasive and predatory species, overfishing, and the climate crisis.

On the Peninsula, there are about 36 species of seabirds, of which only 6% are protected by the Official Mexican Standard. The islands, mangroves, and coastal areas of the region are globally important refuges, as 11% of the world’s total are found here temporarily or permanently.

A scaly dove, commonly found in the beaches and mangroves of Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy

Of all the species of shorebirds, one in 10 lives in Yucatán for part of the year.

Some of these species are the American pelican, the Mexican stilt, the red-footed booby, and the olive cormorant. 

These species are also widely affected by accidental capture, in hook and line fishing, and in drift or gill nets.

In Yucatán Magazine: Amazing birds of Yucatán, from the adorable to the thieves

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