Shaded Cacao Farms Good for Migratory Birds

January 1, 2000 by Gregory Gough

black and white drawing of cacao tree with fruit - the oval cacao pods grow from the trunk and the leaf is lanceolate

Cacao is a small tree from which chocolate is made. It grows at low elevations in tropical areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Like coffee, cacao plants can be grown in the shade of a forest canopy.

A study of shaded cacao plantations in Tabasco, Mexico revealed it to be better than other lowland tropical crops for birds. Many birds that migrate to the tropics for the winter were found on cacao plantations, even those that normally overwinter in forests.

However, resident forest birds were almost completely absent from cacao plantations indicating that it is not a substitute for rain forests and not even as good for birds as shade grown coffee (which is grown at higher elevations).

List of the top ten most common birds found in cacao:

  1. Clay-coloured robin
  2. Magnolia warbler
  3. Hooded warbler
  4. American redstart
  5. Blue-gray gnatcatcher
  6. Brown jay
  7. Band-backed wren
  8. Yellow warbler
  9. Rufous-tailed hummingbird
  10. Black-throated green warbler

This article summarizes the information in this scientific paper:

Greenberg, Russell S. 2000. The conservation value for birds of cacao plantations with diverse planted shade in Tabasco, Mexico. Animal Conservation, 3: 105-112.

Download scientific paper