What is it about?

In South America, coffee plantations have replaced native neotropical mountainous forests, a habitat for migratory birds to spend their winters. Attempts to reduce the environmental impact of this deforestation led to development of shade coffee plantations, which include canopy trees and are one of the few remaining mountainous forest-like ‘habitats’ in Latin America. These cause less drastic deforestation than full-sun coffee plantations, but few studies have assessed the quality of habitat they provide, as compared to the original native forests. Researchers have addressed this deficit in literature by studying the suitability of shade coffee plantations versus native forests as a winter habitat for the Canada warbler (Cardellina canadensis, a migratory songbird). In a new study, they compared the likelihood of capturing individual birds, seasonal changes in their body condition, and estimates of annual sur-vival of Canada warblers living in these 2 habitats. They also found out the effect of the El Niño event (which caused drastic temperature and weather changes in 2015-16) on survival. They found that male warblers were more likely to be captured in forest than females, especially during drier years. Changes in body conditions and annual survival rates for the birds (except those with radio tags or geo -locators) were similar, whether they lived in the forests, or the plantations, and only declined during the El Niño year. Thus, the authors suggest that shade coffee plantations with appropriate vegetation offers are as beneficial a habitat for the Canadian warbler as the native forests, in terms of body condition and survival.

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Why is it important?

Songbirds like the Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) migrate from the North to the Andes mountains to spend winter. However, climate change and human activity has caused a decline in the populations of migratory birds, especially in South America. KEY TAKEAWAY Environmental conservation approaches, like biodiversity rich shade coffee plantations, are a good strategy to ensure long-term survival and optimal body conditions for neotropical migratory birds like the Canada warbler. Promotion of these strategies could help preserve biodiversity while also fostering business growth.

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This page is a summary of: Contrasting the suitability of shade coffee agriculture and native forest as overwinter habitat for Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) in the Colombian Andes, Ornithological Applications, April 2020, Oxford University Press (OUP), DOI: 10.1093/condor/duaa011.
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