The wetlands of the Laguna Madre are one of the most important wintering shorebird habitats along the east coast of Mexico, providing refuge for nearly 100,000 individual shorebirds annually. Laguna Madre was designated the first Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) in 2006, and is thought to house more than 8,500 migrating American Oystercatchers (Morrison et al. 2001) and 41 breeding pairs (Zdravkovic, 2006). Although there have been several efforts to document the importance of the area for shorebirds in the last twenty years, there have been no long-term studies that provide information on population trends for these species. With assistance from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program we were able to obtain current abundance estimates for American Oystercatchers and other shorebird species in Laguna Madre.
We conducted shorebird surveys during the 2013/14 and 2014/15 winter periods at three sites along Laguna Madre. We counted 61 American Oystercatchers along our transect surveys, a large majority of which were in our Southern Laguna Madre site. No oystercatchers were observed in the Northern Laguna Madre site and few were seen in the Central site, both of which are under strong anthropogenic pressures from garbage pollution and unregulated tourism. In the Southern site, where the oystercatcher density and shorebird diversity is highest, the habitat is experiencing degradation most likely caused by extreme weather events.