Marathon Birding Competition Highlights Peruvian Biodiversity

"I am covered in bug bites, my legs are killing me and I got sick and threw up from the altitude. Despite all that, I have been able to see all the birds I have always wanted to see," said a smiling Ryan Terrill. He was part of the winning team of "Birding Rally Challenge Peru", the country's first marathon bird-watching competition, which attracted ornithologist teams from around the world. Twenty-four specialists, including some of the world's foremost birding authorities, raced for six days, trying to cover the most ground and spot the most birds.

The winners were four doctoral students in ornithology from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Tigrisomas. The covered the most terrain and identified an amazing 493 bird species in 6 days, winning a trophy shaped like a Black-Faced Cotinga. Teams started out in the Amazon Basin in Tambopata and worked their way up to the foot of Machu Picchu Citadel. Along the way, one of the birders even registered a Black Swift Apodidae, surprising the specialists, as it was the only one of these North American birds ever spotted in Peru.

"Peru is one of the best places in the world for birdwatching in terms of biodiversity and infrastructure as well," enthused Jordi Sargatal of the Spanish team, Tramuntana Birding. They came in last despite being European champions, but plan to study more about South American birds to prepare for next year.

According to contest coordinator Dennis Osorio, they decided to lengthen the birdwatching competition, which used to be done all in one day, in order to highlight Peru's biodiversity. The country boasts 1,800 registered bird species, 117 of which are unique to Peru. "Just in the area around Machu Picchu, there are 700 different bird species, many of them found nowhere else," he added.

American Tom Schulenberg, an expert on birding in Peru for 35 years, suggested that "What has changed so dramatically... is Peruvians' growing interest in their own environment."

This new-found environmental awareness was highlighted this week as it was reported that Peru's national parks service, Sernanp, is doubling efforts to save the critically endangered Iquitos Gnatcatcher. This diminutive bird was discovered in 1997, and to date only fifteen pairs have been found, only within the white sand forests of the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon.

Hopefully, this new conservation trend and growing ecological awareness will help develop different areas of Peru- if the country successfully converts itself into a top birding tourism destination, it could earn at least $50 million a year.

Inca World Team
Publication date: 19 Dic 2012
Sources: <a href="">Carla Colon</a>

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