Birds Protect Costa Rico’s Coffee Crops

October 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

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.

Explore the Costa Rican Bird Route

March 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

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.

Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Elegant Trogon or the Trogon elegans is very similar to the rarer Eared Trogon, the difference being the barred undersurface of the tail and the white breast band. This stunning bird is related to the Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), the bird of the Maya emperor-gods. The Trogon has a small habitat range, which barely reaches the United States and so is a birder‘s treasure when they find it. Trogons are insectivorous but they often include small fruits in their diet. Their legs are weak and their bills broad, a clear indication of their diet and arboreal habits. They are fast flyers but don’t enjoy long distances hence the small habitat that they are confined to.

The Trogon is 10 inches or 28 to 30 cm long and has a short, stout hooked yellow bill, weighing 65-67 grams. It has an upright posture and the tail is long and square-cut at the tip. The male is beautiful and has a lovely dark, glossy, emerald green upper body as well as the head and upper breast. The breast also has a white band with the belly and tail coverts being crimson in color with a black band. The underpart of the tail is gray with white bars going across it, the head is black with a pale color around the eye.

The female is duller in color and is plain brown where the male is green, pink and crimson, with a white breast and light coffee-colored bands across the chest. The Trogon will nest 2 to 6 meters high in a shallow cavity like an old woodpeckers hole and has 2 to 3 eggs in every clutch.

The Elegant Trogon is restricted to the southeastern part of Arizona in the United States to northwestern Costa Rica, and at times in the southeastern and western part of Texas. The Elegant Trogon is considered a near passerine bird or a higher land-bird assemblage, a name given to those believed to be related to the true passerines because of their ecological similarities. The Trogon’s normal call is a croaking “co-ah co-ah co-ah” sound and sometimes it includes a chattering noise.

First Bird Route Opened in Central America

June 13, 2008 by  
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With more and more people trying their hands at bird-watching, there is a greater need to develop sustainable bird-watching opportunities around the world. Some places have a particularly high concentration of birds and this makes them ideal bird-watching destinations. But without some sort of supportive infrastructure in place, it can be difficult, daunting or nearly impossible for the average bird watcher to visit such locations. The first protected zone in Central America is providing bird lovers with the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a world of color and beauty.

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Striking Beauty of the Quetzal

February 11, 2008 by  
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The Central American country of Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua and Panama with the Pacific Ocean to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east. With more than 870 registered species of birds, Costa Rica is a prime destination for birding enthusiasts. The Quetzal is one of the most unusual birds in Costa Rica and bird-watchers are thrilled when they manage to sight one of these rather elusive beauties.

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