Shade-Grown Coffee Helps Protect Bird Habitats

With the support of the Conservancy and US Forest Service, the Colombian National Federation of Coffee Growers recently completed a census of birds in coffee-growing zones of the tropical Andes. Although endangered birds such as the blossom crown and yellow-headed manakin have lost more than 60% of their habitats in recent decades, the census shows that shade coffee grown in natural remaining forest fragments is protecting these birds while also providing income for local communities.

“It’s critical to link local communities with migratory and resident bird conservation programs and thus to promote the preservation of bird habitats” affirms Jorge Botero, coordinator of the Federation’s conservation biology program. The Conservancy and US Forest Service have been supporting this project in order to understand how the coffee areas can help both migratory and resident birds. Many coffee plantations in Colombia have displaced native forests, leaving “green patches” isolated by areas clear-cut for crops. However, according to the census results, some types of coffee crops can help create forest corridors that can benefit birds. For instance, shade coffee crops help birds by working as bridges between patches of native forest.

The Federation’s studies in the Andean region have registered 290 migratory and resident bird species. In areas with native forest cover, the researchers found several endangered and uncommon species, including the Andean guan and olive-headed brush finch. The research also demonstrated that at least 32 North American migratory birds use the area, such as the rose-breasted grosbeak or summer tanager.

As shade coffee areas are private properties, their conservation and management depend upon their owners. The Conservancy and its partners are working to increase conservation awareness in Andean communities in Colombia and helping the local people to improve their incomes by finding better markets for export to the U.S.


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