Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Connecting WHSRN Sites and People in the Southern Cone

Written by Meredith Gutowski/WHSRN


Male Buff-breasted Sandpiper, double-wing courtship display. © Kevin Karlson

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) breeds in the tundra of North America (Alaska and Canada) and spends the nonbreeding season (boreal winter) in the temperate grasslands of southern South America—mainly in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Priority areas for the species include Laguna de Rocha (Uruguay), Lagoa do Peixe (Brazil) and Bahia Samborombón (Argentina), all WHSRN Sites within the Southern Cone. The degree of legal protection at these sites varies, with a diversity of management actions being implemented by site managers. Private landowners consist mainly of rural farmers, who use their pastures for grazing cattle.

To help protect this important grassland-dependent shorebird species, the nongovernmental organization Aves Uruguay launched the project, “Connecting sites and people to conserve Buff-breasted Sandpiper wintering areas: putting conservation plans into action.” The project is made possible by funds from the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Grants Program (2011), facilitated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The project strengthens partners’ capacity for effective conservation at these three critical WHSRN Sites. The objective will be accomplished through joint management actions among the sites and by starting a monitoring program to assess the species’s response to the actions.


The group discusses the basis for a joint Action Plan. © Diego Luna Quevedo


Workshop participants visit the cattle ranch of Mr. Juan Muzio. © Diego Luna Quevedo

From 13–14 June, 2012, partners held the project’s first capacity-building workshop in La Paloma, Department of Rocha, Uruguay. The workshop brought together key actors and stakeholders from the three aforementioned WHSRN sites, plus the Bahía de Asunción WHSRN Site in Paraguay.

During the workshop, partners made comprehensive presentations on the critical sites for Buff-breasted Sandpipers in the Southern Cone; exchanged information on the ecology and conservation of the species; and shared management experiences. At the same time, with facilitation by Diego Luna Quevedo (Southern Cone Program Coordinator for the Shorebird Recovery Project at Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences), the participants generated a dynamic working group and laid the foundations of an Action Plan for the joint management of the sites. They addressed the challenges and opportunities that come with joint management; developed objectives for a joint strategy; and established lines of priority actions, expected results, possible activities, and indicators by which to measure the impact of joint management.

The workshop agenda included a visit to the cattle ranch owned by Juan Muzio in the area of Laguna de Rocha. He shared with the participants the keys to good management practices in the field.

For more information, please contact Joaquín Aldabe (joaquin.aldabe@gmail.com), Project Leader and Director of Conservation for Aves Uruguay. Mr. Aldabe is also a coauthor of the WHSRN Species Conservation Plan for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance activities support shorebird conservation in Uruguay

Written by BirdLife International

Annually, Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis and American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica undertake some of the longest journeys of any migratory birds in the world, from their breeding grounds in the tundra of North America (Canada and Alaska) to wintering sites in the grasslands of Southern South America. Aves Uruguay (BirdLife in Uruguay) and partners have secured approximately 3,000 hectares for both species of shorebirds through good management practices of the natural grasslands.


Image curtesy of BirdLife International.

Both species have suffered significant population declines due to habitat loss on their migration and wintering grounds and through hunting (in the Caribbean, and historically in North and South America). Their primary wintering grounds are the Southern Cone or Pampas grasslands of South America, and Laguna de Rocha in Uruguay is one of the few sites globally where they can be found in large numbers on a regular basis. Consequently, Laguna de Rocha has been identified as an IBA for both species (IBA UY019) and in 2010 was designated as a site of regional importance within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). Importantly, the lagoon and surrounding grasslands have recently been declared Protected Landscape within the new National Protected Areas System.

Laguna de Rocha is one of the pilot sites for the Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance (www.pastizalesdelconosur), where, through collaboration with local ranchers, best practices for the management of natural grasslands are being developed which enable ranchers to conserve the unique biodiversity of their grasslands through livestock ranching. A combination of academic research, traditional knowledge and the monitoring of grassland bird populations are being used to develop the most appropriate grassland management practices for each species of conservation concern.

The work at Laguna de Rocha is being led by Aves Uruguay with the support of the national university (the Universidad de la República). A research and monitoring program has been established for both species, with the goal of understanding the main factors determining habitat preferences, and the relationship with land use, diet, territoriality, site fidelity (between years) and spatial segregation of the sexes. The program will also assess the local population status, estimate demographic parameters (e.g. survival), local movements and help identify the migratory flyways used by both species. Through the program, college students will receive training in topics such as migration ecology, behavioral ecology, biodiversity conservation and field techniques.

Information generated through the research and monitoring program is being used to inform decisions regarding stocking rates, rotation cycles and other aspects of livestock management by producers to help create appropriate habitat for Buff-breasted Sandpiper and American Golden Plover. This synergy has been made possible in part thanks to the support of the “Responsible Production Project” of the Uruguayan Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries.

Aves Uruguay’s work at Laguna de Rocha is made possible through the project “Connecting people and places for the conservation of Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngenites subruficollis” financed by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and the Eastern Regional University Centre (Centro Universitario Regional Este, Universidad de la República). It is also supported through theSouthern Cone Grasslands Alliance, which is supported by the Aage V. Jensen Charity FoundationCanadian Wildlife ServiceNMBCA and U.S. Forest Service – International Programs; in addition to support from the Responsible Production Project, the Basic Sciences Development Program of the Universidad de la República and WHSRN.

Further information: Pablo Rocca (roccallosa@gmail.com) Grasslands Alliance Coordinator un Uruguay.


New WHSRN Site in Argentina: Bah??a Samboromb??n

Written by Meredith Gutowski/WHSRN

During its annual meeting this May, the WHSRN Hemispheric Council unanimously approved the nomination of Bahía Samborombón in Argentina as a WHSRN Site of International Importance. With this designation, we celebrate Bahía Samborombón as the 85th site in the network, and the 5th in Argentina!

The 250,000-hectare site, located on the east coast of Buenos Aires Province, is administered by the provincial government’s Directorate of Natural Protected Areas as the “Bahía Samborombón Wildlife Refuge.” It includes 118 private properties devoted primarily to raising livestock. More than 100,000 shorebirds, including 11% of the global population of Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis), rely annually on the bay’s coastal and grassland habitats during long-distance migrations.

Bahía Samborombón’s designation as a WHSRN Site carries a special significance for us because it fulfills a desire of the late Pablo Canevari, former WHSRN Director and a native of Argentina, who long ago championed the importance of this site for shorebirds. The bay is also recognized as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and contains two designated Important Bird Areas.


Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis). Image curtesy of WHSRN

It is our pleasure to congratulate and welcome our new WHSRN partners at Bahía Samborombón: the Directorate of Natural Protected Areas of the Province of Buenos Aires and its Provincial Sustainable Development Organization; the National Parks Administration; the City of La Costa; and the many private landowners committed to shorebird conservation in and around the bay!

For more information, contact Ricardo Cañete[anp@opds.gba.gov.ar], Director, Natural Protected Areas Directorate of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, (54) 221-4253875. 

Uruguay: Developing the Laguna de Rocha WHSRN Site Management Plan

Written by Meredith Gutowski/WHSRN

Laguna de Rocha, a WHSRN Site of Regional Importance on the east coast of Uruguay, is a critical wintering area for 6.6% of the total biogeographic population of Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis). This site is part of the National Protected Areas System and provides stopover and wintering habitat for several other migratory bird species of conservation concern.


Buff-breasted Sandpiper, with flag and color-bands, at Laguna de Rocha, Uruguay. © Joaquín Aldabe

Partners are currently working on developing the design and implementation of a Management Plan that allows for productive development that is compatible with maintaining the ecological character of this valuable protected area. To help advance the effort, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) have agreed to provide financial support to Aves Uruguay, a nongovernmental bird conservation organization, to collect the data needed to ensure that shorebirds are adequately addressed in the future plan. Aves Uruguay is generating updated information about shorebirds in the area and working to build local capacity for conservation. “The idea is to set the stage for action,” explains Joaquín Aldabe, Director of Conservation for Aves Uruguay.


Laguna de Rocha WHSRN Site, located on the east coast of Uruguay, is part of the country’s National Protected Areas System.

The activities supported by Manomet and CWS include applying the WHSRN Site Assessment Tool; publishing and distributing a training manual about the shorebirds of Laguna de Rocha; conducting a series of informative workshops for local stakeholders; continuing a participatory monitoring system for Buff-breasted Sandpipers; and providing assistance to livestock owners about habitat management practices.

For more information, please contact Joaquín Aldabe (joaquin@aldabe.org), Aves Uruguay, or Diego Luna Quevedo (diego.luna@manomet.org), Southern Cone Program Coordinator, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.

New hope for migratory grassland birds of South America

Written by BirdLife Americas

The rich grasslands in South America, home to one of the world’s most valuable ecosystems is fast disappearing and migratory grassland birds, which play an important role by dispersing seeds and controlling insects, are also rapidly declining in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

In order to reverse this trend, the Convention on Migratory Species of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/CMS), in collaboration with BirdLife International and Guyra Paraguay (BirdLife Partner), convened a one-day meeting in Asunción, Paraguay, where Government representatives, scientists and conservationists adopted an action plan for urgent conservation measures to ensure the survival of these birds and their habitats.


The Buff-breasted Sandpiper breeds in North America and covers a distance of 20,000 km to its non-breeding sites in South America to feed and recharge its batteries. Credit: Seabamirum / Flickr

CMS Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema said: “The CMS action plan does not only address threats to migratory grassland birds in South America. By preserving their habitat, we safeguard many other endangered species. At the same time we help mitigating climate change because it aims to conserve the grasslands that produce oxygen and act as carbon sinks.”

Grassland birds are the gardeners of this formerly rich ecosystem. However, their habitats in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay have been destroyed in recent years due to agricultural and aquacultural activities as well as the timber industry.

Agriculture, in particular the cultivation of soya, has put these important ecosystems at risk as pollution from pesticides and other agrochemicals are carried by drainage and run-off directly into marshes and wetlands.

In addition the natural grasslands are being converted into pastures for cattle and meat export to the world’s markets and pastures are frequently burnt to accelerate the food supply for grazing cattle.

The afforestation of pampas with Eucalyptus and pine trees also contributes to widespread habitat loss. This monoculture of non-endemic trees drains valuable wetlands, crucial for species conservation, to satisfy the global demand for paper.

The grassland bird species covered under the CMS agreement are highly-prized as caged song birds which have been illegally captured and kept in cages in private households all over the world.

A major priority of the CMS action plan is protecting and managing the habitats for these migratory grassland birds. New protected areas will be identified to create a viable network of ecosystems and the conservation of the birds needs to be included in their management plans.

Source: http://www.birdlife.org/community

Migratory birds in the spotlight of the World Bird Festival

Written by BirdLife Community

Fact sheets on threatened and migratory birds

Continuing the series of educational materials for schools in the Americas, two poster-sized fact files highlight two very different migratory strategies. The first focuses on Swainson’s Hawk, showing key sites on its route while the second looks at the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a Near Threatened species, unique among shorebirds.


The fact file on the Buff-breasted Sandpiper is part of a series of educational materials produced for the World Bird Festival in the Americas. Materials are available in Spanish and English.

Download the fact file on Buff-breasted Sandpiper in English or in Spanish.

Look out for the rest of the Festival Materials, available here!

Download the fact file on Swainson’s Hawk in English or in Spanish.

Alliance for grasslands

Written by Martin Fowlie/BirdLife International

The Alliances initiative for the conservation of the South American Southern Cone grasslands was launched by organisations dedicated to the conservation and study of wild birds in the four South American countries which share the great biome of the ???Pampas??? or grasslands of the Southern Cone of the continent.

These organisations are BirdLife Partners: Aves Argentinas, Aves Uruguay, SAVE Brazil, and Guyra Paraguay. Each national organisation makes a particular effort within their own country and they all work together to promote their work.

Other organisations in the Northern Hemisphere are making similar efforts to focus the attention of conservationist organisations and farmers on the conservation of the great prairies.

Many bird species use these prairies and the southern grasslands throughout the year. Migrant species like Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda, Swainson Hawk Buteo swainsoni, the Buff Breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis, or the Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus have their breeding period in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, but they migrate to the southern pampas in winter (where they again enjoy the summer season).

This is a challenge on a continental level, the Southern Cone initiative interacts and works with organisations like National Audubon Society (Birdlife Partner in the U.S.), the U.S. Forest Service, the Northern Prairies Action Plan and Pronatura (BirdLife in Mexico).

Recently the alliance has been working to establish ???Standards of Excellence for the Management and Quality of Natural Grasslands Beef in the Southern Cone of South America???. This will enable the Alliance for the Grasslands to recognise, guarantee and certify products that are friendly towards the conservation of natural farmland and its biodiversity.

For more information click here

Source: BirdLife Community