Conservation status of Caribbean coot Fulica caribaea in the Netherlands Antilles and other parts of the Caribbean
In 2005 to 2006 we assessed the status of the Caribbean coot Fulica caribaea in the Netherlands Antilles, largely semi-arid islands in the South Caribbean, with small numbers of permanently available fresh water bodies. The Caribbean coot is a freshwater bird which is dependent on the seasonal availability of freshwater ponds for breeding; it breeds on 4 of the 6 islands of the Netherlands Antilles, viz. Curaçao (first recorded in 1956), Bonaire (1974), Aruba (1977), and St. Maarten (1981). Compared to the period up to and including 1979, group sizes in 1980 to 2006 were larger on Curaçao, and it appears more abundant in the latter period on all islands. We report on 49 sites (>5 ha) in the Caribbean where the species has been recorded, or where we would expect it to occur on the basis of available habitat. Threats to the Caribbean coot include drainage or reclamation of habitat, hunting, and pollution. Few sites receive protection. The coot has a restricted range of occupancy of some 1000 km2, spread out over 13 islands, representing 10 countries. Based on its restricted range, coupled with high levels of threat and the limited amount of protection, we recomend that the species be included as ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, World Conservation Union) Red List. An increase in the level of (legal) protection, in addition to an increase in the amount of habitat included in the regional protected areas network and heightening the awareness of the needs of this Caribbean endemic are overdue. The establishment of permanent freshwater ponds, especially in the arid parts of its range, appears favourable for the species, and may aid conservation.