Cerulean Warblers and shade coffee

by JulieCraves on August 25, 2006

The Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea) is a bird in trouble. It breeds in the eastern U.S. and winters in South America, and populations have been on the slide in recent decades — faster than any other eastern warbler.  It is on the Audubon WatchList and is listed as vulnerable by BirdLife International.  Primary threats are loss of habitat both on the breeding grounds as well as their wintering areas in the tropics, where an estimated 64% of its habitat has vanished.  For more information on on the importance of coffee fincas to Cerulean Warblers and other migrants, read the excellent article from the National Wildlife Federation  called “The Case of the Disappearing Warbler.”

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is partnering with the American Birding Association to help coffee growers preserve critical wintering habitat around the new 500-acre Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve in the Rio ChucurÁ­ basin of Santander, Colombia (click map to enlarge for range of the warbler and location of reserve).

The area, one of the last natural remnant forest fragments in the region, shelters high populations of wintering Cerulean Warblers. The reserve also contains three Critically Endangered bird species: the Gorgeted Wood-Quail, Colombian Mountain Grackle, and Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, along with many other threatened and endemic birds. A new species of bird, a very colorful brush-finch (below) was recently discovered just outside the reserve, which emphasizes the importance of protecting the area from deforestation due to growing technified coffee.

I dug around for farms that were located in the Santander area. Beans from this region are usually marketed under the name Bucaramanga after the capital city of the department. Coffees from this area are said to be milder and fuller-bodied than other Colombians, and remind some people of Sumatran coffees.

The well-known finca Mesa de Los Santos is located here, which produces organic shade coffee certified by both SMBC and RA.  Paramito is another farm in the area, RA certified, that was the only farm from Santander to place in the 2006 Colombia Cup of Excellence competition.

Another conservation project in a coffee-growing area, the El Dorado Nature Reserve on the northwest slope of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, was preserved by ABC, Conservation International, and FundaciÁ³n ProAves. This summer, two critically endangered frogs were rediscovered there.

In a country where 60% to 70% of the coffee is technified “sun” coffee, it is important to support both the conservation of areas as reserves, and to look for coffee grown in small holdings that preserve biodiversity.   I will be on the lookout for farms that will be working with these two bird organizations on the habitat preservation project.


Cerulean Warbler portrait on a notecard by John Sill, available at Acorn Designs.  Brush-Finch photo from FundaciÁ³n ProAves. The American Bird Conservancy also offers very nice Cerulean Warbler postage stamps that support their work.  Sweet Maria’s has a nifty set of maps of Colombian coffee growing regions.

Revised on January 7, 2022

Posted in Birds and other biodiversity

nigel hughes April 28, 2008 at 1:12 pm

how did you get to have postage stamps done? i have been trying here and there for years, having painted all 50 species of curassows, guans and chachalacas (range: mexico to argentina)
best wishes
nigel hughes

BirdBarista April 28, 2008 at 2:17 pm

I didn't have anything to do with the warbler stamps. Zazzle.com has an arrangement with the U.S. Postal Service that allows people to design their own stamps. I have no idea if other countries have a similar program.

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