Conservation of Bahama Nuthatch, Ecostudies Institute

Conservation of Bahama Nuthatch

Conservation of Bahama Nuthatch, Ecostudies InstituteThe Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea) forests of Grand Bahama Island support a subspecies of the Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla); the species is absent from pine forests on neighboring islands of Andros and Abaco. Ecostudies has been conducting a variety of research on this bird since 2007.

We have conducted surveys throughout Grand Bahama Island to estimate abundance and to map the distribution of this subspecies, and we have conducted genetic analyses to better understand the taxonomy of these birds, particularly with respect to its relationship with mainland populations in the United States.

The results of this work have stimulated interest from other researchers, and will serve as the basis for plans to conserve this unique part of the biodiversity of the Bahamas.

Key findings:

  • Brown-headed Nuthatches on Grand Bahama Island are a genetically distinct evolutionary lineage and constitute a unique subspecies.
  • Brown-headed Nuthatches are now quite rare on Grand Bahama. We detected only two individuals during line-transect surveys of the entire island, although we found 21 additional individuals (14 adults and 7 juveniles) using ad hoc survey methods that involved broadcasting recorded vocalizations of Brown-headed Nuthatches.
  • Our results were comparable to the findings of previous surveys that estimated less than 2,000 individuals remained.
  • All of the individuals detected were found in Lucaya Estates, a subdivision in the center of the island that has yet to be built-out. Because it appears to support the only remaining population of the Bahamas Brown-headed Nuthatch, this area is vital to the persistence of this unique piece of the Bahamas natural heritage. Residential development of Lucaya Estates will almost certainly lead to the extinction of nuthatches on Grand Bahama.
  • We recommend the protection of these pine forests as the first and most important step in the development of a more comprehensive strategy for the conservation of Brown-headed Nuthatches on Grand Bahama.

Reports and Publications

  • Lloyd, J. D., and G. L. Slater. 2011. Abundance and distribution of breeding birds in the pine forests of Grand Bahama, Bahamas. Journal of Caribbean Ornithology 24: 1-9. {PDF}
  • Lloyd, J. D., G. L. Slater, and A. E. Metcalf. 2009. Taxonomy and population size of the Bahama Nuthatch. Final Report to the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration. {PDF}

Project Supporters

Conservation of Bahama Nuthatch, Ecostudies Institute