Nearly 200 species of birds including various tanagers, hummingbirds, warblers and hawks disperse throughout the U.S. and Canada for the summer months to breed after having spent the winter months in warmer climes to the south. They move north for many reasons including less competition for resources. We are collaborating with ranchers and communities to ensure that the birds’ wintering grounds along riparian areas in northern Sonora afford them ample protection.
In 2011, we began a coordinated and multifaceted approach to landscape conservation in the Sky Island region of northwest Mexico. This effort, sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) and other partners, expands our work in the region by bolstering community support for active restoration efforts in degraded riparian areas. This effort also expands education and outreach on conservation of neotropical migratory birds and their habitats.
Although cottonwood-willow gallery forests along major drainages are critical to migration success, they are rare, threatened, and degraded in the region. Our work is located throughout northern Sonora including sites along:
- Three perennial streams in the Sierra La Esmeralda on the western edge of the Sky Island region.
- The Río Cocóspera-Aribabi, at the base of the Sierra Azul.
- The Río Santa Cruz at San Lázaro, where landowners and ejidatarios have many years’ experience partnering with conservation groups on restoration activities.
Sky Island Alliance works with community members to build erosion-control structures, erect exclusionary fencing for livestock and re-vegetate riparian banks with native trees. This restoration project also allows us to join forces with regional restoration experts in order to train landowners, volunteers, partners, and agency personnel in methods to assess and restore riparian areas. By integrating our education programs with examples of successful riparian restoration, we hope to expand future restoration efforts and galvanize efforts by local landowners and their communities to conserve and enhance habitats for neotropical migratory birds.
Our approach is based on the principle of linking restoration, monitoring, and education while maintaining relationships based on trust and credibility with landowners to enhance the ecological and economic value of riparian areas. Although the target beneficiaries for this work are the birds themselves, habitat improvement of riparian ecosystems is not only “for the birds” but also benefits the many other species, and people, that call this region home.