Shade coffee plantations in Chiapas, Mexico support an impressive variety of birds, particularly migratory birds. Only acacia cattle pastures supported more migratory species in the area.
The shade element of the coffee plantations occurs as either a remnant of the original forest, overtopping the coffee shrubs, or as a planted canopy dominated by trees in the genus Inga. The type of shade does not seem to matter to the birds. Both types are comparable to natural forests in the area and only moist tropical forests harbor more birds.
The dry season, February to May, encourages birds to move into shade coffee plantations. Fruiting and flowering trees are common in the plantations and provide berries and nectar to a wide variety of birds, particularly Tennessee warblers (pictured above) and Baltimore orioles.
With much of the natural forest in the area gone, shade coffee plantations provide an important sanctuary for birds.
This article summarizes the information in this publication:
Greenberg, Russell S., Bichier, Peter and Sterling, J. 1997. Bird populations in planted and rustic shade coffee plantations in Chiapas, Mexico. Biotropica, 29: 501-514.
Much of the remaining "forest" vegetation in eastern Chiapas, Mexico is managed for coffee production. In this region coffee is grown under either the canopy of natural forest or under a planted canopy dominated by Inga spp. Despite the large differences in diversity of dominant plant species, both planted and rustic shade coffee plantations support a high overall diversity of bird species; we recorded approximately 105 species in each plantation type on fixed radius point counts. We accumulated a combined species list of 180 species on repeatedly surveyed transects through both coffee plantation types. These values are exceeded regionally only by moist tropical forest. Of the habitats surveyed, shade coffee was second only to acacia groves in the abundance and diversity of Neartic migrants. The two plantation types have similar bird species lists and both are similar in composition to the dominant woodland-mixed pine-oak. Both types of shade coffee plantation habitats differ from other local habitats in supporting highly seasonal bird populations. Survey numbers almost double during the dry season-an increase that is found in omnivoruous migrants and omnivorous, frugivourous, and nectarivorous resident species. Particularly large influxes were found for Tennessee warblers (Vermivora peregrina) and northern orioles (Icterus galbula) in Inga dominated plantations.
Teachers, Standards of Learning, as they apply to these articles, are available for each state.