The Bird Islands of Ambergris
Cayo Pajaros and Rosario Caye
65 million years ago the Atlantic and Indian Oceans began and much of the chalky sea bottom from Cretaceous times began to rise up to be land in the form of Paleocene Rock. The great reptiles died out; mammals and birds began their dominance. About 39 million years ago the first Ibidopsis (Ibis)and the first Heron formes fished the tropical shallows of the Americas. The Linnaean name for the order of Ibis and heron is Ciconiiformes. The order of Cioniiformes has given a start to a wide variety of interesting Heron and Ibis species.
Millions of years before Ambergris Caye was born juts of the paleocene rock broke the surface of the shallow sea off the coast of Belize. Trees began to grow on them creating an ideal sanctuary for these new birds to nest and raise their young.
Rosario caye and Cayo Pajaros on the west side of Ambergris Caye are natural sanctuaries formed exactly like this. Belizean Tour guides visiting the Bird Cayes point out at Cayo Pajaros Paleocene rock protruding from the shallow waters around it.
Today just like their ancestors from millions of years ago colonies of Ibis, and Heron use these two islands as refuge from predators. Herons, egrets, storks and other large waterbirds nest communally in what are called heronries. Colony and Heronry nesting is considered as a response to shortage of safe nesting sites and abundance or predictable food sources which are not far away from the nest sites. Rosario and Cayo Pajaros are heronries for Reddish Egret, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Little Blue Heron and Rosette Spoonbill because of their particular typography and proximity to the shallow flats west of ambergris that provides good fishing at depths reachable according to the birds’ leg length. The interior of Rosario is a fresh water lagoon lined in mangrove that gives security to the nests approach and potable drinking water, making it an environmental jewel. Reproductive success and habitat selection is studied by ornithologist and this is where I might quote a scientific paper or two but in laymen terms let me say this; Young birds learn from older experienced birds and the mortality rate for birds raised in older colonies is low and the success of the Heronry produces most of the local population.
In a nut shell this is the importance of these two islands. If we want and enjoy the birds on Ambergris we need to preserve and protect where they come from.
Edited by elbert (06/14/08 09:11 PM)