In this project we aimed to create a community-based conservation plan for the critically endangered Bahama Oriole (Icterus northropi) on Mangrove Cay, a district on Andros Island, The Bahamas. As a synanthropic, single-island endemic species, the Bahama Oriole benefits from human activities that increase breeding habitat and foraging opportunities in developed areas. This makes it an ideal candidate for community-based conservation, since people can see and appreciate oriole population growth that occurs as a result of their conservation actions. In this research program we partnered with one classroom each at the high school and elementary school on Mangrove Cay, as an extension of an environmental education program run by the Bahamas National Trust, the primary natural resource management organization in the Bahamas. Students in each classroom collected data including, but not limited to, nest locations, date of courtship initiation, dates of nest-building activities, number of chicks fledged per nest, and occurrence of nest parasitism by brood parasites. Observations were entered by students into a website portal created as a citizen science website, as well as in a classroom-based Excel sheet. We collaborated with the Bahamas National Trust to create a conservation plan and ongoing educational programs for the schools.
We conducted a total of 30 point counts, which encompassed the eastern seaboard of Mangrove Cay, and all human-modified habitats, known to be preferred by the Bahama Oriole for nesting (Price et al. 2011). We observed a total of 40 species of birds during these surveys with a mean of 9.9 ± 3.75 birds per site (x̅ ± SD) and an average alpha diversity of 6.14 ± 1.78; 0 – 4 (minimum – maximum observed per survey). The total number of species observed between March 24 and April 5 was 58 species, as some species were observed outside of point counts.
Approximately 400 residents, or about half of the island, were engaged through three specific forms of education and outreach. We presented to ~250 students, in 13 classrooms on Mangrove Cay, engaging the students with quizzes and outdoor activities. Working with 12 different classes and over 300 students and teachers, their proficiency in identifying the Bahama Oriole and using Facebook to upload nest data were increased throughout our time there.