Abundance and distribution of wintering shorebirds along the Pacific coast of Guatemala


210 – 218

1 December 20

Callie F. Gesmundo, Zachary M. Pohlen, K. Varinia Sagastume-Pinto, Bianca Bosarreyes, Martin Robards, Roan McNab, José F. Moreira-Ramírez, Rebecca L. McGuire


Callie F. Gesmundo
Wildlife Conservation Society, Arctic Beringia Program, 3550 Airport Way, Unit 5, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA


Public Files

Guatemala remains one of the last countries within the Pacific Americas Flyway lacking information about migratory shorebird abundance and distribution. To quantify the abundance and distribution of wintering shorebirds along the Pacific coast of Guatemala, we conducted the first comprehensive winter shorebird survey during the boreal winter 2018–2019. We surveyed 44 sites spanning the 250 km Pacific coast from the border of El Salvador to the border of Mexico, with at least one site surveyed for every 20 km of coastline. We counted a total of 18,693 shorebirds of 29 species. Small Calidris sandpipers dominated, with a total of 8,009 individuals, or 42.8% of all detections. Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri was the most abundant species with a total of 4,202 (22.5%), followed by Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus (11.1%), Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla (10.9%), Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla (8.6%), and Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus (7.3%). Of the 44 sites surveyed, estuaries (n = 30) supported 72% of all individuals detected, while two salt pond complexes accounted for over 15% of all detections. However, since site selection was not random, interpretation or comparisons of these results should be done cautiously. This survey represents the first rigorous study of winter shorebird abundance and distribution along Guatemala’s Pacific coast. Thirteen of the 44 survey sites are located within internationally or nationally recognized protected areas with varying degrees of protection (privately-owned shrimp farms, salt ponds, or designated multiple-use areas). Unprotected survey sites supported over 60% of all shorebirds counted, with five unprotected sites accounting for 37% of all detections. These unprotected sites face uncertain futures with possible changes in farming practices, coastal development, or increased water extraction for agriculture, which highlights the need for greater emphasis on effective coastal management practices along Guatemala’s Pacific coast.