Migrating Birds Bring Two Parks Together

"Sister parks are a natural outgrowth of the assistance the National Park Service has been providing international parks since our inception...our sisters have so much to share with us and teach us as well, so that learning is a two way street." Superintendent Christopher Stein, Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

A group of children in Costa Rica line up to look through a bird spotting scope.
A group of children in Costa Rica line up to look through a bird spotting scope.

NPS Image.

On Saturday, March 1st, 2015, the Upper Midwest's "sister parks" and partner groups in Costa Rica held their first annual bird festival to say farewell to their departing Neotropical migratory birds. Over the next several weeks, Neotropical migratory bird species that winter in Latin America will begin their annual migration to North America to be able to nest and reproduce in the longer days and more insect-rich northern climes.

The Costa Rican bird festival was held on the Osa Peninsula, which National Geographic has called one of the most "biologically intense" places on Earth.  The celebration was a collaboration among SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion), Osa Conservation, Osa Birds, and local communities.  SINAC is Costa Rica's equivalent of the NPS, USFWS, USFS, and a state DNR agency all wrapped into one government organization.

According to Juan Jose Jimenez Espinosa, the Forest Manager of the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve (one of the Costa Rican "sister parks"), "The first annual bird festival on the Osa was everything we hoped for and more.  Over 200 people attended and now know about the importance of Neotropical migratory birds.  We are already looking forward to next year's festival."

Seven national parks and protected areas of Costa Rica's Osa Region signed a "sister park" partnership with 13 national parks of the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes I & M Network last June.  Since that time, two Costa Rican park professionals have visited Upper Midwest parks, hosted by Rotary International's District 5960.  Students from Cedes Don Bosco School outside of San Jose produced a "sister park" advertising campaign that won first place in their category at an EXPOTEC Science Fair and produced interpretive materials that can be used at each park.  In addition to the first annual bird festival on the Osa Peninsula, a sister festival will be held in Minnesota and Wisconsin in conjunction with International Migratory Bird Day this May.  Several Midwest park units also plan to partner with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center on a research project this summer to employ geolocators to track where in Latin America their specific birds go.

This "sister parks" partnership between Costa Rican parks and the 13 national park units aims to increase public awareness of the story of Neotropical migratory birds, and protect and restore suitable habitat in the USA and Costa Rica.