Colombia means doves’ land

  • On the occasion of the 2021’s Global Big Day

Two moments inspired these lines: “Colombia, wounded dove”, an album and a song by Jorge Lopez Palacio with Lilienthal, released in 1984 (Colombia paloma herida) and the current social situation. Subjects I want to address from a birding perspective, as birding has provided me with a new optic when I approach natural or not, rambles spaces. Besides birds, I also focus on different life manifestations around and many other details just regardless up to there.

It has been 18 months since I started a progressive learning about the huge and complex birds’ world. Guided by Cesar Arredondo and Wilmer Ramirez, specialists, friends and colleagues in tourism who have been patiently sharing their knowledge with me. They have also introduced me into the Global Big Day – GBD, world’s birds counting and observing one-day activity, created in 2015 by the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University, through E-Bird’s site.

They esteem around 11.000 recognized bird species in the world (recent studies say there are maybe 18.000). Recorded at nearly 95% in platforms like E-Bird, Avibase, Birdlife, Audubon’s, and so others by the contribution of scientists, researchers, birders and amateurs. These databases established a link between scientist and civil societies in order to facilitate data about birds’ distribution and abundance with significant addition to conservation and research.

Birding activities include this kind of competitions having variable goals in terms of duration (from 1 day to a full year), distribution (specific regions) or birds’ characteristics (migrations, habitats…), with an increasingly number of people taking part. Colombia is not an exception; it would be disturbing if it were, considering the privilege hosting the larger diversity of bird species in the world.

This way, in GBD numbers, since 2017 Colombian birders took it upon themselves to head that natural wealth and their passion in the rankings. In an invariable top 4 ranking with Peru, Ecuador and Brazil with a fluctuating 5th place occupied by Bolivia, Mexico, Venezuela, USA or Kenya this year. These positions mirror consolidated numbers of global permanent observations, meaning not only competitions.

getting ready for GBD
getting ready for birding

Species diversity does not depend on the amount of birdwatchers uploading lists on sites, logically. Even if, the more people observing, the more species might be observed. Numbers tend to be stable: Colombia with approximately 1.954 bird species registers 1.884 in all-time site’s records and an average of 1.500 species observed for a single day (GBD). Peru hosts around 1.858 bird species, 1.823 records uploaded on the site and an average of 1.400 for a single day. Brazil with 1.919 species and Ecuador with 1.681 record an all-time average of 1.700 and around 1.100 for a single day.

Speaking about rankings, we can add participation’s one, quite interesting also: set by the amount of lists uploaded. E-Bird site allows uploading as many lists as people or organizations wish. It is possible to create different lists according to routes, places, schedules, or to upload a single list gathering the information for an entire day, for a single person or for a whole organization. Since GBD exists, USA has been heading this ranking. A 328 million people nation sharing more than 77.000 lists for GBD-2021 and more than 38 million lists for all-time records. The second place is for Canada, with 38 million people sharing 15.000 lists for GBD-2021 and around 6.5 million lists for all-time records. Colombia is a country with 50 million people wherein birders focus their passion particularly on GBD, taking third position in GBD-2020 with more than 7.000 lists uploaded, but only in the 11th position in all-time records with around 300.000 lists.

Participation numbers and records are constantly increasing and can be followed on www.ebird.org.

In this year’s GBD-2021, Colombia gave the first place in species observed up to Peru, and the amount of lists uploaded diminished to approximately 2.000. What happened?

In order to approach an answer to this question, it is hard to set aside political considerations in view of the critical social situation in the country. We are not turning birding into a political subject, as birds bear no relation with human (ir)rationality designs. Let us make this to be a reflection from each one’s philosophy, or better, from ecosophy – this notion formulated in late 20th century. Unfortunately, this GBD-2021 took place in a convulsed moment when a big segment of Colombians was protesting against different alarming decisions in political, economic, social and environmental fields. That way, having waited for months, several birders and birding collectives declined the invitation to participate in GBD, assuming a supporting position on protests.

Disastrous orientations face to economic, health, educational, corruption, political issues headed by current government originate protests, with severe human right’s violations. More than seeking international visibility, decision to avoid taking part in GBD also aims to stand out environmental orientations in current practices such as fracking, use of glyphosate, mining licences in protected areas and complicit lassitude face to excessive growth of deforestation. All of this in the second megadiverse nation on earth.

All this negligence will bring us a lack of reasons to be proud of and to utter in any social media about hosting the largest biodiversity in butterflies, orchids and birds. We shall attend territory’s destruction in total collusion.

By the way, “Colombia means doves’ land, white doves executed from the egg…” are the opening lyrics of the song inspiring this entry.

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