Migratory Birds and Wetland Conservation at Cuitzeo Lake, Mexico By Ducks Unlimited de México, A. C.
Historically, Cuitzeo Lake has been a critical wintering and stopover habitat for migratory birds, specifically for shorebirds and waterfowl. This 42,000 hectare wetland provides a wide spectrum of suitable habitats for a large number of birds such as mudflats, emergent and aquatic vegetation, and open water. However, do to anthropogenic impacts, this wetland is stressed by unceasing threats; the lack of sanitation on surrounding populations, the expansion of agriculture, the development of unplanned infrastructure and the lack of awareness has driven Cuitzeo Lake to a continuous loss of quality as a wetland habitat for wildlife.
Shorebirds near the Salamanca - Morelia highway at Cuitzeo Lake. Photo by Gerardo Guzman.
Since 2010, Ducks Unlimited de Mexico, A. C. (DUMAC) has implemented strategies for the conservation of the Cuitzeo Lake Watershed in collaboration with local, state and federal authorities, such as the National Water Commission. These strategies are directed to guarantee the conservation, restoration, and management of Cuitzeo Lake as a priority wetland in Mexico for the distribution of migratory birds. In November 2017, we began a wetland bird monitoring program to better understand the current habitat use dynamics of migratory and resident birds in Cuitzeo Lake and support the establishment of priority conservation activities within this wetland. This monitoring program also has the objective to involve local biologist and students who could eventually continue this monitoring effort in the future. Capacity building of local professionals is a key step to assure long term conservation, follow up and public outreach.
DUMAC and the University of Michoacán San Nicolas de Hidalgo through the Lab of Ornithology began collaborative efforts to involve undergraduate students in workshops and events regarding the importance of Cuitzeo Lake as habitat for migratory birds and monitoring techniques and protocols.
As a celebration of the World Shorebirds Day, this past September 6th, we held a workshop at Cuitzeo where 9 students participated, learning about the biology of shorebirds, their migration, and the importance of Cuitzeo Lake as a key habitat for shorebirds in central Mexico. Additionally, the students learned about wetland birds monitoring techniques and the strategies being implemented by DUMAC to preserve these species and their habitat. Our workshop ended with identification and counting exercises, where all participants were able to observe wetland birds and count flocks using scopes and binoculars.
World Shorebirds Day has been a great opportunity to connect local students and professionals with wetlands and birds. In the near future, they will be the pioneers guiding public awareness initiatives and outreach regarding the conservation of migratory birds and their habitat in Cuitzeo Lake and the region.
Flocks of ibis, stilts, and ducks feeding in Cuitzeo Lake. Photo by Antonio Cantú