NGOs TAKING CARE OF BIRDS – Part 2

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Several NGOs in Colombia are dedicated to preserving the well-being of wild animals, with a particular focus on birds.

One such organization is the Colombian Ornithological Society (Sociedad Ornitológica de Colombia – SOC), which operates nationwide and focuses on bird conservation through research, habitat protection and community engagement.
https://asociacioncolombianadeornitologia.org/

Another key player is the Fundación ProAves, which works to protect threatened bird species and their habitats in Colombia’s important bird areas.
https://proaves.org/en/

Additionally, the Colombian Audubon Society (Sociedad Audubon de Colombia) conducts bird monitoring and conservation projects across the country.
https://www.audubon.org/es/conservacion/turismo-ecologico-en-colombia

The Colombian Federation of Ornithology (Federación Colombiana de Ornitología) is also actively involved in bird conservation efforts.
https://asociacioncolombianadeornitologia.org/

These NGOs are funded through a combination of grants, donations, membership fees and partnerships with government agencies and other organizations.

Individuals interested in volunteering with these organizations can inquire about opportunities such as bird monitoring, habitat restoration, education programs and community outreach initiatives.

Volunteering may involve fieldwork, research assistance, administrative support or fundraising activities, depending on the organization’s needs and priorities.


Crested eagle

Scientific name: Morphnus guianensis
Conservation status: Near threatened

The Crested Eagle is a huge, rare eagle found in large swaths of mature lowland and foothill forests that is endemic to Central and South America. It is sparsely distributed throughout its extensive range from Guatemala to Colombia and further south to northern Argentina. Always rare and infrequently seen, any day with a Crested Eagle deserves special mention.

It often overlaps in range with the Harpy Eagle, which is likely its close relative and is somewhat similar in appearance. The Crested Eagle is half the size and avoids competition by taking generally smaller prey. The Crested Eagle averages 71 – 89cm/28 – 35” in length and weighs 1.75 -3kg/3.9–6.6lbs.


Adults are dark grey above and whitish below with a grey head and breast and barred belly. The similar Harpy Eagle has a more contrasting black chest and lacks barring on the belly. Juvenile Crested Eagles are mostly white with darker wings.

Crested Eagles build nests just below the canopy in dense rainforests with lower undergrowth. The nest is built of sticks and is very well constructed. The female often brings fresh greenery to the nest to replace old branches.

Two eggs are laid in one brood during the rainy season, while incubation is believed to be 40-50 days and is mostly undertaken by the female. After hatching both parents feed the young who then fledge after about three months.

Like its close relative the Harpy eagle, the Crested Eagle is large enough to feed on live prey such as smaller birds, opossums and reptiles. Eagles of this size are too large to kill prey in the air, so they surprise them on the ground, often decapitating their victims.

In Colombia the eagles are mostly to be seen in Chocó, the Baudó mountains and the Achicayá and Sinú valleys, the Córdoba and Perijá mountains, La Guajíra, the eastern region of the Andes and in the west of Meta and Caquetá.

The Crested Eagle is hunted throughout its wide habitat, as it is often considered a threat to poultry and other domestic animals. Also the loss of suitable habitat with large trees for nesting is one of the greatest threats, particularly in Colombia.


Harpy Eagle

Scientific name: Harpia harpyja
Conservation status: Vulnerable

The harpy eagle is an emblematic bird of the tropical forest, famously known as the queen of birds, not only for its size and beauty but also because it is the largest in the western hemisphere and the strongest raptor in the world.

This importance also lies in the fact that it is a leading predator. It is positioned at the top of the food chain and so the presence of the eagle indicates the valuable health of ecosystems.

The eagle controls populations of various mammals including monkeys, porcupines, large rodents and reptiles such as snakes and other smaller birds. If it did not exist, an imbalance could be generated by the increase of this fauna.

The Greater Sanctuary is a private natural reserve of 160 hectares/395 acres located in La Macarena, Meta, at an altitude of 233m/764’. Located 225 km/140 miles from Villavicencio, the capital of the department. It is a strategic area thanks to its high biodiversity and because it is a transition zone between the Andes, the Orinoquía and the Colombian Amazon.

It is known worldwide for having the most beautiful river in the world, Caño Cristales, which has shifted its economy towards ecotourism, mostly international. In recent years, the region has awakened an ecological spirit thanks to its amazing biodiversity and thus the vibrant economy it has generated.

Currently, the creation of sites for bird watching and the development of green projects is taking flight. It is one of the few places in the country that already has its own publication, the La Macarena Bird Guide.

Deforestation, selective felling of large trees, unsustainable hunting, mining and illegal trafficking all contribute to the destruction of harpy eagle populations.

The Red Book of Birds of Colombia classifies the harpy eagle as a Nearly Threatened species. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature categorizes it worldwide as Vulnerable to extinction. This is a result of the advance of destruction of the forests where it lives.

Despite the achievements, the harpy research project faces a continual lack of funds The eagle and its nests are usually found in rather remote territories and so getting there involves complex and expensive logistics, as traveling takes place along distant tertiary routes and large rivers.


Andean condor

Scientific name: Vultur gryphus
Conservation status: Vulnerable

The Andean condor is a massive and majestic bird of prey native to the Andean mountains of South America including Colombia. Just like the orchid is the Colombian national flower and the Quindio wax palm the national tree, Colombia has a crown jewel bird, the Andean Condor.

One of the largest flying birds in the world with a wingspan of up to 3m/10’ and a weight of up to 15kgs/33lbs., it is an iconic symbol of culture. The Condor has a long and fascinating history dating back to the Incas who considered it as a sacred bird and it featured prominently in their art and mythology. It was also hunted for its feathers and bones which were used for religious ceremonies and as status symbols.

This large scavenger bird belongs to the family Cathartidae and the genus Vultur, with no subspeciesIt is the largest bird in Colombia and the largest flying bird in the world. Its name originates from the indigenous Quechua word, kuntur. 

Although the Andean Condor is considered a national symbol, it is locally rarely seen in Colombia and is listed as a threatened species by most observers.

The Andean Condor takes to the air by mid-morning and soars over some high zones of the Andes range and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, reaching heights of up to 4,800m/15,748’ above sea level. It may not be the prettiest to look at, but the Andean Condor is nevertheless majestic. Seeing a flying condor is a great spectacle, but it takes some luck to find it.

 The Andean condor is a highly social bird that often gathers in groups at roosting and feeding sites. It is also a highly territorial species and will defend its nesting sites and feeding areas aggressively.

It communicates through a variety of vocalizations, including grunts, hisses and whistles. It also uses body language such as head-bobbing and wing-spreading to send signals to other birds. A slow-maturing bird, reaching sexual maturity between 5 and 7 years of age. Typically condors breed every two years, with both parents sharing incubation and chick-rearing duties. It lays a single egg, which is incubated for slightly less than 60 days. The chick remains in the nest for 6-7 months before fledging.

The Andean condor feeds primarily on carrion but has also been known to eat live prey including rabbits, rodents and other birds. It is an important scavenger, helping to keep ecosystems clean and healthy by removing dead animals. It has a long lifespan of around 50 years.

The Andean condor is currently listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat loss, hunting and poisoning. Despite conservation efforts, populations of the bird have declined in recent decades, particularly in areas where human activity is high. In Colombia, the Andean condor is protected by law and conservation efforts are underway to protect its habitat and reduce human-wildlife conflicts.


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