• Fabián Llanos

    Shorebird conservation at Bahía de San Antonio, Argentina

In Brief


Bahía de San Antonio, northern Patagonia, Argentina


Improve the population status of at-risk migratory shorebirds by increasing protection of a Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network Site of International Importance


Although Bahía de San Antonio is a coastal marine protected area, shorebirds using this important stopover site are subject to increasing human disturbance and the threat of inappropriate development adjacent sensitive shorebird habitat. Increasing the number of beach guardians, who provide expert input into the reserve's management.

Support this project

Actions & Results:

  • Working with the province, we are reducing disturbance and increasing public awareness by deploying additional rangers at critical sites during the annual migration season (March to mid-May).
  • We are providing best-practices expertise to decision makers regarding shorebird conservation needs.


2016-2017 budget, ICFC portion: US$63,490 (other expenses covered by the province of Rio Negro)
Cumulative cost to ICFC (past years): $63,922       

Rangers at Bahia de San Antonio.  photo: Patricia Gonzalez 

In More Depth...

Project Partner and Personnel

Our partner is the Argentinian conservation organizaton Fundación Inalafquen, in cooperation with the Río Negro Province. Project leader are Patricia Gonzalez, ICFC Shorebird Program Coordinator, and Mirta Carbajal, President of Fundación Inalafquen. This project is supported in part by the Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity Tesearch Fund, Royal Ontario Museum.


Bahía de San Antonio, a coastal marine protected area administered by the province of Rio Negro, represents a key stopover area for shorebirds migrating between Tierra del Fuego and Canada. More than 100,000 shorebirds used this site in the 1990s, including 40,000 Red Knots (Calidris canutus). In recent years, fewer knots (<3,000) have been observed there, reflecting the dramatic declines that have been recorded for the species, but this represents 25-50% of the Tierra del Fuego population (Baker, Gonzalez, Morrison, & Harrington, 2013). The current norm is about 20,000 shorebirds.

Bahía de San Antonio also hosts a population of almost 600 American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) and breeding colonies of South American Tern (Sterna hirundinacea), Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus), and other species. The area was declared protected in 1993; it is recognized as Site of International Importance by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network and as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. Thanks to the work of the Argentinian conservation group Fundación Inalafquen, a Shorebird Interpretive Center was established in 2007. Shorebird Festivals are now held each year and the Red Knot was recently declared as the symbol of the city of San Antonio Oeste.

Shorebirds stop to refuel and rest, while moulting into breeding plumage at Bahía de San Antonio. Many knots and other species stay there as late as May 7-10, and then make an 8000-km nonstop flight to the United States in 8-10 days (based on information from geolocators attached to birds and resightings of color flagged birds; Allan Baker, personal communication). The late Dr. Allan Baker explained: "Without this link in the migratory chain we risk losing the wintering red knot population in Tierra del Fuego. Since the year 2000 the Tierra del Fuego population has declined from 52,000 red knots to 10,000 in 2013 , and similar population declines have also occurred in the other Canadian species."

Enhanced protection measures are now critical, because disturbance and destruction of feeding and roosting habitats is causing birds to leave optimal areas. This adversely affects their physical condition and lowers their chances of surviving their long distance migrations. In recent years everal factors have led to worsening disturbance:

  • the growth of the three urban centers (San Antonio Oeste, Las Grutas beach and the Port of San Antonio Este) that grew from 15,000 inhabitants in 2000 to 30,000 in 2010, and a large real estate development at Las Grutas beach that had 424,000 tourists between December 2013 and February 2014, compared to 172,000 visitors in 2003-2004;
  • increased traffic from ATVs and motorcycles (a social trend driven by highly successful marketing);
  • increased number of holidays and non-working days (27 days in 2014 compared with 14 days in 2000), which brings more visitors to the coast;
  • increased beach access points.

The number of provincial conservation officers working in the Natural Protected Area has not been enough to protect the three main vulnerable shorebirds sites.

With this project, we have an agreement with the province of Rio Negro to collaborate in affording the level of protection called for in the reserve Management Plan.

  1. Train, equip and manage conservation officers (rangers) who:
  • enforce regulations aimed at reducing disturbance and threats to shorebirds and their habitats;
  • promote awareness of shorebird and biodiversity conservation among tourists, local visitors, school kids, and high school and university students.
  1. Provide expert input on shorebird conservation needs in relation to coastal development affecting sensitive areas at Bahia de San Antonio.
  2. Collaborate with Atlantic flyway colleagues with respect to public awareness, social media and communications.

Signs decrease disturbance to birds. photo: Fundacion Inalafquen

Education indoors (above) and outdoors (below) makes a difference. photos: Fundación Inalafquen

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