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Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Nicaragua Canal

Colombus and other early explorers to the Americas came in search of a passage to the Pacific Ocean which would permit water access to east Asia. This link counted among the inspirations of diverse adventurers in the Central American isthmus, from Cortes to Humboldt. In fact, Lake Nicaragua, also known as Lake Cocibolca, was repeatedly investigated for the possibilities of a direct water link to the Pacific coast.

The shifts in global economies did not lay the issue to rest. Humans had great interest in moving by water from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, and vice versa. The Spanish empire, obliged to trek gold eastward by mule from Peru, dedicated many resources to transoceanic route possibilities, followed in the postcolonial period by other powerful European and US efforts to open a canal. Nicaragua became the principal focus of these efforts, given the natural advantages its topography offered.

Even without a canal, interoceanic travel in Nicaragua spiked during the middle of the nineteenth century, fueled by the massive human movement toward California during the Gold Rush. Cornelius Vanderbilt developed a system of transport along the San Juan River, across Lake Nicaragua, and then by land to San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast, which benefited thousands of travelers who wished to circumvent the conflicts between whites and indigenous people along the Great Plains. Mark Twain documented the reverse journal with ample detail on Nicaragua in his Travels with Mr. Brown.

History was written with the production of a canal across the Central American isthmus, but in Panama rather than in Nicaragua. But this did not end the ambitions of some to create another canal in Nicaragua. Analyses continued through the twentieth century, as pressure continually rose on the already existing Panama Canal's limited capacity in terms of water to move ships and its limited size. As the Panama Canal widened, ever larger ships could pass, yet an entire class of cargo ship was still left isolated from easy movement between the oceans. A further widening of the Panama canal is simply not feasible.

Undoubtedly, the world would benefit from another, wider canal, built closer to the US, in which transportation costs for many products could be dramatically lowered and greenhouse gas emissions could be cut. For this reason, near the end of the twentieth century, the Nicaraguan government and civil society developed feasibility studies for potential canal routes in Nicaragua, ranging from a "dry canal" consisting essentially of two ports connected by a highway transited by hundreds or thousands of container trucks or a train, to a dug canal crossing Lake Nicaragua at some point.

The canal is now closer than ever a reality. A concession has been awarded to HKND, a venture capital firm located in Hong Kong. Although official canal construction has not begun, an Environmental and Social Impact Study, produced by ERM, has been reviewed and accepted in Nicaragua, which has provided a conceptual approval but many additional studies are pending.

GAIA scientists participated in the field studies and analyses for this study, moving throughout the route. As the study progressed, several points of discussion emerged among the public, as well. Although some aspects of the pending canal have been defined, many important aspects must be resolved. GAIA scientists continue to participate in discussions regarding the canal with HKND, the Nicaraguan government, and the civil society, to assure that each anticipated impact and risk be resolved. This is a gargantuan task, for a project which promises to be the largest of its kind in the world, in a country as poor and marginalized as Nicaragua, and crossing such precious natural resources as Lake Nicaragua.
Nicaragua Canal
Lake Nicaragua with storms on the horizon. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Numerous arguments have been made to question the viability of a canal in Nicaragua, particularly the concession given to HKND. Some of the issues have been of an environmental nature, such as the emminent, total destruction of hundreds of thousands of hectares of tropical forests and wetlands, as was alleged by Jorge Huete and Axel Meyer in Nature. GAIA scientist Jeffrey McCrary participated with other Nicaraguan scientists to rebut this position in separate communication in Nature. The differences in opinion between different members of the scientific community in Nicaragua and a few people such as Jorge Huete was later revealed in further detail in an interview in Global Construction Review, another in a Swedish journal, and finally, an investigative report in Science.

Richard Condit from the Smithsonian Institution in Panama wrote a article in PLoS Biology, in which he discusses the possibilities that a canal in Nicaragua can mean, given the century of experience in the Panama Canal.
Photo Jeffrey McCrary.

While everyone is concerned about the effects of the canal on water pollution and effects on nature, others see these problems as technical, with solutions within the grasp of those pretending to undertake such a large project. Differences of opinion about the canal abound, but a few things are certain. The Nicaragua Grand Oceanic Canal could be made wrong, and the economy and environment could suffer by water pollution and various other possible calamities. Another scenario is also looming, however, where things are done right and Nicaragua gains, along with the entire planet. It is a big project, and demands a great deal of attention, but it also holds great promise.

Nicaragua Grand Interoceanic Canal
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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Wild Animal Rescue XVIII: White-faced Capuchin Monkey

There is something dark inside us humans, that makes us want to possess what pleases us. This dark urge to possess sometimes focuses on some poor, wild animal who deserves to live and die in its natural habitat, not in a cage or on a chain. This week, the Gaia staff gave back to the world, to nature and to one White-faced capuchin monkey, who had been cruelly imprisoned by humans who thought a monkey should be an object for humans to own.

animal rescue
This monkey certainly was assertive! Photo Pablo Somarriba.
Of course, the humans who bought and sold this poor monkey as if she were a commodity never considered that she had never wanted to be on a chain. Perhaps they realized that she was unwilling, because they kept her on a metal chain, not just any cord, because she would have chewed through anything else. But even though their consciences were dulled to the point that they could abuse an animal in this way, their threshold of physical pain could still be reached. This monkey, as most White-faced capuchins do, tends to bite, unpredictably.

After a few bites, the owners who once thought having a monkey on a chain would make them popular among their friends, and perhaps bring them happiness to fill that void that is formed when one is in an endless cycle of abuse, decided that a monkey was no longer as interesting as before. She was brought to us by volunteers from Fundacion ADAN, in Managua, and we monitored the monkey several days before releasing her into the wild, in an area where she would quickly encounter others of her species.

White-faced capuchin monkeys are clever and cute. This monkey wanted and attracted attention very well. She made friends fast. Her mischief was generally benign, and she kept people laughing.

white-faced capuchin monkey
The monkey made a special bond with Elmer, who has a special way with animals. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
But recently, her happy day came. With volunteers and GAIA staff in tow, she made the trek from Estacion Biologica to an area in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve where others of her species (Cebus capucinus) are found. 

cebus capucinus
This White-faced capuchin monkey was very active, while at Estacion Biologica! Today, she lives wild and free, in the forests of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is a natural habitat for this species, and for the Golden-mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata). There has recently been a great resurgence in the latter species, thanks to better conservation practices in the reserve, especially regarding poaching of wild animals. The White-faced capuchin monkeys, however, have yet to occupy large areas of the reserve. Their populations were almost completely eliminated by unscrupulous hunters and pet traders, which have affected the Golden-mantled howler monkeys less, because they are not attractive as pets, and possibly because their diet is much less dependent on fruit, since they can digest leaves in enormous quantities.

Once on their way to the spot she will find as her new, wild home, the monkey continued to play. She had already developed a bond with Elmer, and she went without making any problems. She had no idea of the big adventure ahead of her.

Once they were in an area with White-faced capuchin monkeys, they entered on a path into the forest. It was important to leave the monkey as close as possible to others with whom she will bond and associate. 

Once she was released from her cruel collar, she slowly tested her new limits. First, she only sat and observed her human friends, glancing at the abundant forest without moving. Then, she was taken by bravery. She tested a small tree, and found it to her liking. Her memories of the wild had not left her. Within seconds, she jumped from one small tree to another, then scaled to several meters height. Within a few minutes, she was gone, not to return. What an emotional start to a new, free life!

Wistful but satisfied that one more sentient being in this universe will live and die according to her biological mandates, and not in captivity, the crew of volunteers and GAIA staff went back to Estacion Biologica to contemplate it all. After all, White-faced capuchin monkeys have many human qualities. It seems so natural that someone would see a monkey act cute and adorable and think, "I want one". Yet, when we see how this monkey acted, once free, the answer was clear. She tolerated us but she knew where she belonged. She scaled the trees and never returned. We hope someday to see her again, but from afar, and hopefully, in the company of her new simian friends. She, and all wild animals, deserve to live and die in their natural habitat, not in a cage or on a chain.

This monkey is now in the forest, where she wants to be, but there are still many things to do in Nicaragua, to combat the illegal traffic in animalsWould you like to help us protect the wild nature of Nicaragua? You can work with us in many ways. One is to adopt a rescue animal. We have animals that need food and care, and their costs average fifteen dollars per month each. You can help us expand our capacity to care for wild animal rescues by helping to finance new enclosures and transportation costs. And, most importantly, you can help by volunteering with us. 

GAIA eco-warrior volunteers help care for our rescued animals, as well as conduct other environmental activism such as planting native trees in deforested areas inside the reserve. We also monitor bird and monkey populations, and our volunteers help us make the surveys in combination with GAIA experts. Our volunteers have plenty to do in rewarding, if tiring, labor.

It makes us emotional to think that we can bring happiness into the life of a small animal that looks so much like us, so easily. It seems like so little, but at the same time, so much to bring a monkey back to her life that she abandoned unwillingly, by the cruel acts of other humans. When we saw her go away and not look back, we knew we had done something good.

We want to know what you think. We need your participation and support, to work together to save wild nature in Nicaragua. Please contact us and tell us what is on your mind.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Una denuncia ciudadana contra un norteamericano por asesinar a un león

Esta semana, se ha publicado un reporte noticioso de un norteamericano de nombre Walter James Palmer, un dentista de Minnesota, que supuestamente pagó US$50,000.00 a unos guías para matar a un león en Zimbabue. El hecho fue ampliamente reportado en El Nuevo Diario y en otros medios en Nicaragua.

El león africano, Panthera leo, se ubica en la Lista Roja a nivel Vulnerable, y en la lista CITES en el Apéndice II. Siendo un animal protegido por ley, también es emblemático de la selva africana, de un continente abatido por las secuelas de la colonización y las desigualdades entre los ciudadanos en nuestro planeta.

Walter James Palmer, un dentista de Minnesota, Estados Unidos, ha sido nombrado responsable de la muerte de este león africano, que llevaba el nombre Cecil. 
El león, además, es un animal utilizado en forma deplorable en los circos y zoológicos por todo el mundo. Por ser grande y feroz, es utilizado es estos espectáculos como si el pobre animal no tiene alma, como si no sienta el dolor por la represión a que se somete para vivir en una jaula. 

Este animal en particular llevaba un nombre con que muchos lo conocían. Cecil tenía una melena negra, y era el león mas grande en todo el país, era un individuo único por lo que fue conocido por muchos turistas. Las famosas "safari de cámara" lo incluyeron como un atractivo especial. 

Por lo dicho, ese detestable dentista pago a unos guías, quienes lo llevaron a un lugar en las afueras de un parque nacional en Zimbabue, donde Cecil vivía protegido de la cacería. Los guías ilegalmente ocuparon un animal muerto como cebo para atraerlo a salir de los limites del Parque Natural de Hwange. Según los reportes, la persona que le llevaba al dentista Walter James Palmer a ese punto se llama Theo Bonkhorst

Si no fuera poco que ese dentista Walter James Palmer se fuera a Zimbabue con intenciones de matar a un león, la manera utilizada para matarlo era especialmente cruel e inhumana. Utilizando flecha, Palmer supuestamente hirió a Cecil, y logro encontrarlo unas 40 horas después, cuando encontraron al animal con vida y tuvieron que sacrificar a Cecil con arma de fuego.

Esta foto de la pagina de facebook de Bushman Safaris demuestra el tipo de atracción ofrecido por la empresa de Theo Bonkhorst, quien supuestamente se encuentra involucrado con Walter James Palmer en el asesinato del león Cecil. 
Los temas del colonialismo del siglo pasado se entremezclan tristemente con la crueldad del ser humano y la soberbia de un hombre con muchísimo dinero para andar en muchos países en todos los rincones del planeta para matar a animales. Estamos avergonzados por el estado de la humanidad. Es difícil creer que una persona que se ha dedicado su vida a la salud de otros como debe de ser un dentista puede considerar matar a un animal tan importante a un país pobre como una osadía que ameritaría una pequeña fortuna. Esta historia refleja una mente enferma protegida por grandes sumas de dinero. La próxima visita que hace Walter James Palmer a Zimbabue, recomendamos que lleve una cámara y salga con fotos en vez de sangre de animales.

Estamos en la lucha por los derechos de los animales silvestres en Nicaragua. Deseas participar? Contáctanos

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Taller de Biodiversidad con Instituto Juan José Díaz

Nosotros como equipo de personal de Gaia nos preocupamos por lo que piensa la gente en Nicaragua sobre la naturaleza. Desafortunadamente, mucha gente en Nicaragua piensa en serpientes con veneno mortal cuando piensan en el bosque. Invitamos a la comunidad siempre en nuestras actividades de investigación sobre los animales y la naturaleza en la Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo. AquÍ, presentamos unas fotos de un pequeño taller de biodiversidad de aves con jóvenes estudiantes de quinto año en el Instituto Juan José Díaz, que es el colegio para nuestros vecinos en la zona de la entrada principal a y dentro de la Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo.

Una joven examina una ave capturada en nuestro estudio. Foto Bart Verdick.
Los estudiantes acompañaron al campo a uno de los sitios de estudio donde una captura de aves con redes de neblina. Los estudiantes podían observar la operación de las redes y cuando se capturaba un ave, también podían observar cada individuo de cerca y aprender a manipularlos y anotar datos sobre cada uno.
Se retira de la red de neblina una ave para el estudio. Foto Bart Verdick.
En este taller, los jóvenes valoraban el trabajo técnico de campo en nuestro estudio de aves con redes de neblina, y luego consideraron las aves capturadas en las redes durante el curso de la mañana del taller.

Nicaragua necesita igualmente de científicos dedicados a estudiar y defender a la vida silvestre del país, y una sociedad conocedora y amante de las maravillas naturales del país. Cuando conocemos con la Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo, ya vemos que las maravillas son diversas, y no terminan con lasque se encuentran dentro del agua. Las aves de estos bosques son diversas y especiales.

El senzontle (Turdus grayi). Photo Bart Verdick.
Los participantes del taller, conducido en la Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo, vieron al proceso de captura, extracción de las redes, toma de datos, y inspección de las aves, y finalmente, su liberación para volver a sus actividades normales. Cuando se capturó un senzontle (Turdus grayi), los participantes apoyaron en la toma de datos y liberaron al animal a la conclusión de su observación.

Una mano joven libera al senzontle. Foto Bart Verdick.
Es doblemente importante desarrollar un afecto hacia el bosque cuando uno vive en la mera orilla de un gran monumento a la biodiversidad como la Laguna de Apoyo. Nos gusta participar en actividades con el Instituto porque lo vemos como una inversión en el futuro de esta laguna y sus bosques.

Los estudiantes preguntan a nuestro equipo de trabajo de campo sobre los estudios de aves. Foto Bart Verdick. 
Contáctanos si deseas participar en un curso de especialización o una pasantía en el Programa Gaia
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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Laguna de Apoyo in view

As the largest volcanic crater lake in Nicaragua, Laguna de Apoyo has a lot to see. There are lots of angles and facets, and the perspective changes from hour to hour. Here are a few photos shared by our friends to give you an idea of the different ways people see the lake.

Laguna de Apoyo
Sunrise is a great moment to be on the lake. Vera Neumann
Usually at dawn, the lake is relatively quiet. During the rainy season, that may mean the volcanic crater lake is so smooth as to reflect the mountains on the opposite side. During the dry season, when winds blow constantly, the lake is just less choppy at dawn, whereas real waves may kick up during the day, as strong gusts build. Throughout the day, constantly changing, the water is never the same.
Laguna de Apoyo
Lake Apoyo may show patches of different colors, when viewed from above, as in this photo taken from Catarina. Ad Konings.
Because Laguna de Apoyo is extremely deep, reaching 178 meters depth, masses of water with different flow patterns may occur. And, of course, there are fish down there, interesting ones. At all times, the lake is a beautiful blue, but the shades of blue may vary in the patches and may also be muted by whitecaps during the strong winds of the dry season, from December through April.

laguna de apoyo
Sometimes views of the lake are sharp and clear, and other times there may be clouds or haze, but the view is always worth a smile. Jessica Lopez.
The forests surrounding the lake serve some very important environmental functions. The first is that the trees sustain the loose, volcanic ash-laden soils on the steep slopes surrounding the lake. Apoyo is a volcanic crater some 23,000 years old, with the water table emerging through the bottom of the crater. The interior sides of the crater are rapidly eroding. in areas where houses have been built or the land has been deforested for whatever reason. In some places where the trees have been cut, the land has given way in dramatic landslides.

Another important function of the forest is to retain the water in the ground. When the sun and wind reach the soils, as in deforested areas, the ground dries and compacts, drawing water out of the water table below and reducing the capacity of the soils to recharge water into the water table during precipitation. 

The forests of  Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve are also very important habitat for a wide variety of terrestrial mammals, most notably two species of monkeys and over 225 species of birds. Although the forests of Apoyo are not extensive, they are contiguous with forests of Mombacho and Volcano Masaya, linking a corridor which together makes an important contribution to the biodiversity of the region. 

Any visit to Laguna de Apoyo must include swimming. Photo Lucy Lia Real.
The best part of the lake for us bipeds is that the water is warm, clean, and inviting. We get into the lake to feel what only being in a natural water body can bring, a sense of renewal. It is no surprise that religions often use water in spiritual renewal rites. Laguna de Apoyo will inspire the most spiritual aspects of anyone, particularly when one gets away from the handful of tourist traps near the entrance.
Stormy weather can be dramatic in Laguna de Apoyo, worth seeing at a safe distance. Photo Jen Moran.
GAIA is dedicated to keeping Laguna de Apoyo pristine, through working with scientists, tourists and locals to make the best choices for development in the area of the lake. We coordinated with another NGO, CLUSA to develop the management plan now in place in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, in which our personnel were deeply involved in the community involvement in all the negotiations.

GAIA scientists have discovered five species of fish in Laguna de Apoyo, all of which are only found in this lake.
Laguna de Apoyo
A serene moment at Laguna de Apoyo calls for yoga. Photo Jen Moran.
Laguna de Apoyo deserves your involvement and needs you to help ensure the lake is never destroyed, so that humans and wild nature can find harmony. Please contact us if you would like to join us. We want to year from you.
Laguna de Apoyo
Loving Laguna de Apoyo means leaving only a shadow behind. Catherine Bard-Dechesnau

Laguna de Apoyo
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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Migratory Birds II: Mist net studies in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua

Everyone is aware of how some bird species are quite evident and others are incredibly reclusive and difficult to note. This difference extends into most natural habitats that the birds use, especially forest habitats where birds can find lots of different places and ways to avoid detection. Birds are somewhat uniform anatomically, however, there are about ten thousand existing species, each with some distinguishing features, showing how feathers along with other features can make such a large number of distinctions which serve to fit ecological niches for feeding, defense and predator avoidance, migration, compatibility with the elements, and reproduction.

We have conducted several cycles of mist netting studies of the birds of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve in Nicaragua, where there are tropical dry forest habitats facing several levels of human intervention. We have noted how several species of birds can be found commonly in one of our study sites but rare or almost not at all in another site of different vegetation structure and composition. The following are a sampling of the migratory birds that appear in our nets in our studies.

Indigo Bunting (Passer cyaneus) males are not nearly so spectacular on the wintering grounds as they are during breeding season. Photo Pier-Oliver Boudreault.
This remarkable partitioning of the habitats of the reserve is also noted among migratory birds. About a quarter of all the bird species found in Nicaragua conduct well-defined, seasonal migrations, in which nesting occurs in a northward habitat during the North American summer, and leaves the area along with most or all the birds of the same species southward for several months, once the chicks have hatched, fledged and gained independence. The birds remain in a southern habitat until time to return to the nesting grounds again.

Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve offers winter habitats to many migratory bird species which nest further north. One example is the Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea), which nests as far south as extreme northern Mexico, but all the birds of this species disappear move southward into a range extending from central Mexico , the southern tip of Florida, throughout the Antilles and to Panama.

The male Indigo Bunting is appropriately named for its attractive, practically solid blue coloration exhibited during reproduction. A feather molt in the fall, however, leaves the males with mostly drab, brown color, with some deep blue highlights. Hence, the male Indigo Bunting only uses the bright colors during reproduction and maintains a muted appearance when in Nicaragua, which may be driven by predator avoidance and possibly direct physiological costs to produce and maintain the bright plumage.

The female Indigo Bunting is never brightly colored, and lacks the blue wash seen in the male when not in reproductive plumage. Many bird species use color dimorphism in which males demonstrate their reproductive fitness with bold colors and plumage as secondary sexual characteristics which the females use in mate selection. Presumably, a male which will sire offspring more successfully will also have a nice wardrobe.

indigo bunting
This male Indigo Bunting is an adult with well-developed flight feathers, with rounded tips. Photo Pier Boudreault. 

Passerina cyanea
This female Indigo Bunting insisted on a fight so she got one-with the stem of a leaf. Photo Pier Boudreault. 
As a seed-eating species, the Indigo Bunting is generally found in open areas, where grasses may be found around large trees for perching and refuge. This species is found less often in the deeper forest.

In contrast to the Indigo Bunting, the Black-and-White Warbler (Mniotilta varia) feeds on insects found on the bark of trees, especially on the trunk and vertical limbs. It prefers more closed forest canopy and tends to stay low in the forest, climbing along on the trunk, then flying to another, nearby tree to land on the trunk and continue foraging. Its plumage is by no means camouflage for the bird, and there are more bold patterns on the male than on the female, in obvious use in mate selection. 

Like the Indigo Bunting, the Black-and-White Warbler breeding range, in eastern US and Canada, does not overlap with its winter range, which encompasses the extreme southern US, Mexico and Central America, and the Antilles and extreme northern South America. 
Mniotilta varia
Female Black-and-White Warbler. Photo Vera Neumann.

Another group of migratory birds which spend winter in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve are found in the thrush family (Turdidae). In its breeding range, the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) is known particularly for its haunting song, which is not given on its winter range. How fortunate are those who hear its song, for as Henry David Thoreau wrote, "wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him." Unlike the other two birds mentioned above, there are no significant differences in plumage between the sexes in this species. This species can be found foraging on the open ground beneath the shade of large trees, in similar actions to the common resident Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi). 

Hylocichla mustelina
Wood Thrush. Photo Pier-Oliver Boudreault.
Less striking in appearance is another migratory thrush: the Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus), which is common in shaded areas in the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Like the Wood Thrush, the sexes are similarly colored. Its muted color pattern may be of great advantage, especially when foraging on the ground, as it provides an even greater degree of camouflage than the Wood Thrush. The breeding range, across much of the US and Canada, is completely abandoned by this species during the winter. Birds from the western US and Canada pass the winter from Mexico into Costa Rica, whereas birds from the eastern US and Canada migrate across the Caribbean to Panama and South America for winter.

Swainson's Thrush
The Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) is frequently captured by mist nets in appropriately shaded habitats in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Pier-Oliver Boudreault.

Another family of migratory landbirds consists of the tanagers, which are distributed into multiple families in spite of similar external characteristics. The Western Tanager (Piranga ludovicianus) has recently been placed in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae). It is less common than the Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), and has a similar but less melodic, more raspy call on its winter habitat. The Western Tanager tends to stay close to the top of tall trees, coming down to lower levels only occasionally, for which we have relatively few capture records.

The mature male Western Tanager has a red head which fade to yellow neck and throat and olive-yellow body, over which bold black markings are found on the wings. The females lack red on the head and have fewer wing markings. As in many species, the males attain adult plumage after the first winter season, during which only vestiges of the adult male color pattern are noted. This species prefers more well-developed forest structure in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.

Piranga ludoviciana
Immature male Western Tanager. Photo Vera Neumann.
Not all migratory birds spend winter in Nicaragua and breed further north. One bird which breeds in Nicaragua during the US summer months and then migrates to South America in September is the Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris). The forests in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve will be punctuated by its squeaky call, which can be compared to a child's squeaky bathroom toy. As a tyrant flycatcher (Family Tyrannidae), it catches insects in flight in open areas, whether above trees in the canopy or over clearings, making sallies from perches at medium or high levels in trees.

Sulphur-bellied flycatcher
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris). Photo Marlene Krone.
The tyrant flycatchers are generally very aggressive birds, vigorously defending nesting territories from any bird or other animal it perceives to be a threat. Among the defense mechanisms is the use of its bright orange mouth, which it displays to frighten any threatening animal. A yellow flash can also be seen on the crest when excited.

Sulphur-bellied flycatcher
Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher. Photo Vera Neumann.
Migrating birds enjoy a special legal status internationally, thanks to the increasing recognition of the special needs involved in twice-yearly migrations. Among the oldest of legislation to protect wildlife is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, signed by the US government in 1918. Although Nicaragua is not a co-signatory on this or other, similar legislation, foreign investment may require all the stipulations in this law to be applied, even when the investment is made in Nicaragua.

migratory birds
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