Birdwatching

Nicaragua lies in the middle of the Mesoamerican isthmus, with year-round warm weather. Substantial numbers of migratory birds winter here, some of them just pass through Nicaragua during their extensive migrations in each direction, and a few species of birds nest here and then migrate southward during the non-breeding period.

Jeffrey McCrary bird

Other birds, such as the pictured Chestnut-capped warbler (Basileuterus delattrii), are strictly resident species. That means that they never move particularly far from the area where they were born, possibly only excepting what is called dispersal, which occurs as birds mature and depart from parental assistance. Of the more than seven hundred bird species documented in Nicaragua, about a third of them are found in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. One of the more important bird species there is the Chestnut-capped Warbler.

Birds from this location have been reported in a pair of scholarly articles on new and novel reports of birds in Nicaragua. In the first of the two new bird species reports, co-authored by Wayne J. Arendt, Salvadora Morales, Joseph T. Arengi and Lorenzo J. Lopez, first documentations in the scientific literature for ten species were given: Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor), Nazca Booby (Sula granti), Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia), Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa), Sanderling (Calidris alba), Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii), among others.

 

Introduced Predator Elicits Deficient Brood Defence Behaviour in a Crater Lake Fish

A little more than twenty years ago, a new fish species was introduced into Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua. The bigmouth sleeper, Gobiomorus dormitor,  is found in the Nicaraguan Great Lakes and rivers throughout the Caribbean slope of Nicaragua, but did not inhabit Laguna de Apoyo in recorded time. How the Midas cichlids present in this lake respond to the new, voracious predator is the topic of this article, co-authored by Topi Lehtonen, Axel Meyer and Jeffrey McCrarypublished in PLoS One.

In this study, the responses of two fish to predators at the nest were compared: Amphilophus zaliosus from Laguna de Apoyo, where the bigmouth sleeper is a recent invader to its habitat, and Amphilophus sagittae from Laguna de Xiloá, where the bigmouth sleeper has been present, apparently, for thousands of years. The two cichlid fish species studied are superficially very similar, but the milenia of exposure to the devastating predatory capacity of the bigmouth sleeper has honed its skills at recognizing the threat of its presence at a greater distance and to respond defensively at a greater distance than the evolutionarily naive Amphilophus zaliosus.

The results of this study have immediate relevance to conservation biology as a science and to the protection of wild nature in Nicaragua. The victim of evolutionary naivete in this study is the arrow cichlid (A. zaliosus), which was discovered by George Barlow and Jeffrey Munsey at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1976. This species is now known to occupy only Lake Apoyo,