Caribbean Colombia and Venezuela

Country/Territory Colombia,Venezuela
Area 89,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 1000m
Priority critical
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge good

General characteristics

This EBA embraces the lowlands of northernmost Colombia and north-west and coastal northern Venezuela, and as such extends from Bolivar and Atlántico departments, around the base of the Santa Marta mountains (EBA 036) and through the Guajira peninsula, Maracaibo lowlands and north Venezuelan coastal plain (and the Paraguaná peninsula) to the Araya peninsula; it also includes La Tortuga, Margarita and associated islands. The boundary of the EBA coincides almost exactly with the southern limit of the south Caribbean dry zone inside which the annual rainfall is less than 1,000 mm (Sugden 1982). However, the EBA does extend slightly beyond the dry zone and includes the seasonally dry forest and woodlands of Norte de Santander and César departments in Colombia (Forero 1989).

The vegetation types within this zone (from sea-level to 1,000 m) have been classified as desert (including cactus scrub), thorn scrub, dry forest (deciduous and evergreen), riparian associations and mangroves (Sugden 1982, L. M. Renjifo in litt. 1993).

Restricted-range species

Most of the restricted-range birds in this EBA occur primarily in the lowland dry-zone vegetation associations described above, the exceptions being Rallus wetmorei and Lepidopyga lilliae, which are confined to small areas of mangrove swamp in Venezuela and Colombia respectively. Also, Micropanyptila furcata and a subspecies (venezuelensis) of the relatively wide-ranging Picumnus cinnamomeus occur in humid forest south of Lago de Maracaibo (Meyer de Schauensee and Phelps 1978, Ryan et al. 1995).

The Guajira peninsula and the north-west Venezuelan lowlands (primarily Falcón) are of critical importance for the restricted-range species (see 'Distribution patterns' table). Sakesphorus melanonotus was, historically, confined to this EBA, but has recently been found at up to 1,500 m on the slopes of the Santa Marta mountains (EBA 036) (L. G. Olarte in litt. 1993), almost certainly due to the clearance of forest and the expansion of dry scrub up the slopes. Amazona barbadensis is the EBA’s only restricted-range species to have a known long-standing population outside its boundaries, being present on Bonaire and previously on Aruba in the Netherlands Antilles (Secondary Area s015).

Chestnut-winged Chachalaca Ortalis garrula is endemic to this general region, being found within the Colombian portion of this EBA, but is distributed further south within the Nechí lowlands (EBA 037) so does not qualify as a restricted-range species.

Species IUCN Category
Pygmy Swift (Tachornis furcata) LC
Buffy Hummingbird (Leucippus fallax) LC
Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia lilliae) CR
Plain-flanked Rail (Rallus wetmorei) EN
Chestnut Piculet (Picumnus cinnamomeus) LC
Yellow-shouldered Amazon (Amazona barbadensis) VU
Black-backed Antshrike (Thamnophilus melanonotus) LC
White-whiskered Spinetail (Synallaxis candei) LC
Maracaibo Tody-flycatcher (Todirostrum viridanum) LC
Slender-billed Tyrannulet (Inezia tenuirostris) LC
Tocuyo Sparrow (Arremonops tocuyensis) LC
Vermilion Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus) LC

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
CO002 Parque Nacional Natural Macuira Colombia
CO003 Complejo de Humedales Costeros de la Guajira Colombia
CO004 Valle de San Salvador Colombia
CO006 Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona Colombia
CO008 Ciénaga Grande, Isla de Salamanca and Sabana Grande RAMSAR biosphere reserve Colombia
CO010 Eco-parque Los Besotes Colombia
CO011 Santuario de Fauna y Flora Los Colorados Colombia
CO140 Jardín de las Delicias Colombia
VE006 Parque Nacional Laguna de La Restinga Venezuela
VE007 Morrocoy National Park Venezuela
VE008 Refugio de Fauna Silvestre Cuare Venezuela
VE010 Humedales Boca de Hueque y Sauca Venezuela
VE012 Parque Nacional Médanos de Coro Venezuela
VE014 Refugio de Fauna Silvestre y Reserva de Pesca Ciénaga de Los Olivitos Venezuela
VE017 Zona Protectora San Rafael de Guasare Venezuela
VE018 Parque Nacional Perijá Venezuela
VE024 Parque Nacional Mochima Venezuela
VE031 Henri Pittier National Park (Parque Nacional Henri Pittier IBA) Venezuela

Threat and conservation

Large expanses of the characteristic vegetation of this EBA still remain (but are unprotected) in both Colombia and Venezuela (Huber and Alarcón 1988, Forero 1989). Substantial areas of habitat have, nevertheless, been destroyed, especially in north-west Venezuela (principally around Lago de Maracaibo). Overgrazing is preventing regeneration and causing a problem in Guajira in Colombia (Sugden 1982, Huber and Alarcón 1988). Overgrazing by goats and firewood-gathering by local people are resulting in severe pressure on the Araya peninsula, and burgeoning tourism, development pressures and pollution are threatening habitats elsewhere in Venezuela (Wege and Long 1995). Large-scale open-cast coal-mining poses a substantial threat to parts of this EBA in Colombia (L. M. Renjifo in litt. 1993).

Rallus wetmorei is restricted to brackish lagoons and mangroves along a small stretch of Venezuela's north coast, where its habitat is severely threatened by house and road construction and associated pollution. Similarly, Lepidopyga lilliae is confined to mangroves along the north coast of Colombia, where urbanization and pollution have caused the death of large areas of mangrove and continue to put pressure on remaining stands. Amazona barbadensis has suffered from habitat loss, but more significantly from widespread exploitation for the pet trade (Collar et al. 1992, 1994). However, conservation action has been able to double its population (now some 1,500 birds) at its stronghold on Isla de Margarita (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1997). The widespread Red Siskin Carduelis cucullata (classified as Endangered) also occurs in the deciduous forest and dry scrub of this zone, where it too is threatened by the pet trade. Ten Key Areas (eight in Venezuela and two in Colombia) have been identified for the threatened birds in this EBA (Wege and Long 1995).

The xeric vegetation that characterizes this EBA is currently not covered within the protected-area network, which has primarily focused on the coastal wetland sites, e.g. Isla de Salamanca National Park in Colombia, and Morrocoy National Park (and the adjacent Cuare Faunal Refuge) and the coastal portions of San Esteban and Henri Pittier National Parks in Venezuela (IUCN 1992a), although even these protected areas face severe threats as outlined above.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Caribbean Colombia and Venezuela. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/09/2021.