Birds of Coffee Farms in Guatemala

January 1, 1997 by Gregory Gough

Guatemala, a small country in Central America, has a large bird community. Its tropical forests are the winter home of a great variety of migratory birds from North America which join a diverse assemblage of resident birds.

To better understand Guatemala's birds, scientists studied six major habitats in the Polochic Valley of Guatemala:

  1. Sun coffee
  2. Inga-shaded coffee
  3. Gliricidia-shaded coffee
  4. Regenerating corn fields
  5. Shaded cardomom plantations
  6. Remnant forests
small black and yellow bird

In this part of Guatemala, coffee may be grown in the sun much like corn, or under a short canopy of trees dominated by the genera Inga or Gliricidia. The trees are heavily pruned so that there is a gap between the coffee shrubs and the canopy. Insecticides are widely used to keep pests at bay and herbicides are applied to combat weeds.

Abandoned corn fields, cardomom grown under a natural forest canopy, and native forest rounded out the habitats studied.

Not surprisingly the forest remnants, even small patches, were the best habitat for birds and supported both resident and migratory species. The shaded cardomom plantations were fairly similar in their appeal to birds.

Of the coffee farms, the Inga-dominated canopies were the best for birds and similar to the regenerating corn fields. Gliricidia and sun coffee were the least popular among birds.

Note that coffee grown under tall, shaded, unpruned canopies in nearby Chiapas, Mexico were even better for birds, and almost as good as natural forest.

This article summarizes the information in this scientific paper:

Greenberg, Russell S., Bichier, Peter, Cruz, A. and Reitsma, R. 1997. Bird populations of sun and shade coffee plantations in Central Guatemala. Conservation Biology, 11: 448-459.

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