Millions of people around the world could not imagine starting the day without a cup of coffee. Coffee production plays a major role in the economy of a number of Central and South American countries, including Costa Rica, where ongoing research has highlighted the role local birds play in protecting one of the most lucrative crops in the world – coffee. Stanford University graduate student Daniel Karp and a group of researchers recently published a paper in Ecology Letters where they detail how birds control populations of coffee borer beetles (Hypothenemus hampei) in Costa Rican coffee plantations, increasing the yield per hectare significantly.
Originating in Africa, the coffee borer beetle has spread around the world and is found wherever coffee is grown. This small brown beetle is very destructive and difficult to control, causing an estimated $500 million in damage every year. The female beetle burrows its way into the coffee berry and lays up to 50 eggs. Little white maggots hatch from the eggs and consume the coffee berry from the inside. In coffee plantations where patches of rainforest habitat were left undisturbed, damage by coffee borer beetles was noted to be much less resulting in higher yields.
In determining what contribution birds are making to the coffee economy of Costa Rica, researchers carried out calculations on how much yield could be expected if there were no borer beetles to contend with. They then made a comparison between infested plants left in their natural condition, and infested plants grown inside bird-proof enclosures. It was concluded that, taking the season into account, birds improve yield per hectare by between $75 and $310.
In order to determine which birds were eating the beetles, researchers took bird faeces back to the laboratory at Stanford to test the DNA. One of the bird species identified as a coffee borer beetle eater is the yellow warbler. The research results will be used to show Costa Rican coffee farmers that it is advantageous to protect rainforest habitat on their land – both for the birds and for the coffee crop.
Birders of all levels of experience are encouraged to join in the fifth annual edition of this event, the primary goal of which is to provide participants with a unique bird-watching venue, where birders and farmers can meet and the value of birds in this habitat is highlighted. Be prepared for a whole lot of fun. For more information visit the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival Website.
Date: 23-27 October 2013
Venue: Jennings, Los Angeles
Protecting close to 12,000 acres of wildlife habitat, the Costa Rican Bird Route includes eighteen spectacular bird watching spots. Eight of these are private reserves established by local landowners and incorporated into the Costa Rican Private Reserve Network, while the other ten sites include Costa Rica’s established biological reserves – all of which offer rich and varied bird watching opportunities. The region incorporates the last remaining habitat of the second largest parrot in the world – the endangered Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) – and every year since 2002, Costa Rica and neighboring Nicaragua have joined forces to host the Bi-National Macaw Festival aimed at raising awareness of the plight of these beautiful birds.
Although the main goal of the Bi-National Macaw Festival is to promote the conservation of the habitat of the Great Green Macaw, and therefore ensure its continued existence, the gathering also gives the neighboring countries the opportunity to learn about each other as they pursue their common goal. The festival includes a host of cultural, recreational and educational activities, with art and photo contests, dancing, music, storytelling and handicrafts all focusing on the Great Green Macaw. Landowners who protect macaw nests on their property are rewarded with monetary prizes and certificates in recognition of their efforts, which have resulted in a marked reduction in pillaging of nests for macaw chick for illegal trade.
Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and local communities, birders stand a good chance of spotting a Great Green Macaw when exploring the Costa Rican Bird Route. But if the endangered South American parrot is elusive, the fact that up to 520 bird species have been counted in the route means that birding enthusiasts will have plenty to see.
Birders are asked to take note of their sightings and report them to the Rainforest Biodiversity Group via eBird.org for inclusion on the electronic database. This helps landowners along the route to keep track of wildlife on their properties, while at the same time helping the foundation to track bird distribution in the Western Hemisphere. eBird.org also offers birders the facility to explore their database, which can prove really handy when planning a trip to expand your list of birds sighted. Advanced technology now offers birders the opportunity to be a citizen scientist, no matter where in the world you are pursuing your favorite pastime.
Pledge2Fledge (P2F) is an international grassroots campaign organized by non-profit organization the Global Birding Initiative for birders to introduce friends and acquaintances to the pursuit of bird watching. P2F presents the perfect opportunity for birders to share their love for birding with others, thereby helping more people to discover the allure of birds while connecting with the natural world around them. On 24 to 26 August 2012 birders across six continents will be actively involved in sharing their passion for birding by introducing non-birders to this fascinating activity and sharing the results with the world through videos, photos, and stories on the P2F website and social media channels.
Located at the point where three continents meet, Israel has reported sightings of more than 500 species of birds, many of which stop-over during their migration between Europe/Western Asia to Africa along the Great Rift Valley flyway. So, a recent announcement by the Israeli government that it will be investing NIS 37 million (US$10 million) in developing a network of centers along the migration route is welcome news for birding enthusiasts. Three existing bird watching centers are to be upgraded – Kfar Rupin, Eilat and Ma’agan – with four new centers planned for Ein Gedi, Hatzeva, Lotan and Sde Boker, as per the proposal put together by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and Tel Aviv University. The project, which will include a web-accessible computerized bird monitoring database, aims to attract up to 100,000 bird watchers to the region annually, while raising environmental awareness and promoting education and research.
An estimated 500 million birds stop-over in Israel during their autumn and spring migrations, between mid-March and mid-May and November to December. The area of Galilee, with its kibbutz farms and fishponds located on the banks of the Jordan River, hosts migratory birds that take a rest period of several days before completing the last stretch of their trip which spans three continents and covers thousands of kilometers. During this time bird watchers can expect to see vast flocks of pelicans, storks (up to 85 percent of the world’s stork population) and other birds setting up temporary rest-stops.
The Hula Valley Nature Reserve is one of the country’s most famous birding sites and well worth visiting if you plan to go birding in Israel. The reserve, which is listed by BBC Wildlife magazine as one of the world’s most important wildlife observation sites, has an interesting history. In the 1950s most of the lake was drained to make way for farming, with devastating results on the ecosystem and endemic plant and animal life. In 1994, in an effort to restore the balance, part of the lake was re-flooded and soon attracted birds again. Today the reserve is home to tens of thousands of aquatic birds representing more than 200 species and welcomes birders with an informative visitors’ center and a floating bridge with blinds from which birds can be viewed. Hula Nature Reserve stands as testimony to nature’s ability to recover when given the opportunity to do so.