Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 8, pp 2245–2256 | Cite as

Bird diversity in cacao farms and forest fragments of western Panama

  • Sunshine A. Van BaelEmail author
  • Peter Bichier
  • Isis Ochoa
  • Russell Greenberg
Original Paper


Theobroma cacao plantings, when managed under the shade of rainforest trees, provide habitat for many resident and migratory bird species. We compared the bird diversity and community structure in organic cacao farms and nearby forest fragments throughout mainland Bocas del Toro, Panama. We used this dataset to ask the following questions: (1) How do bird communities using cacao habitat compare to communities of nearby forest fragments? (2) To what extent do Northern migratory birds use shaded cacao farms, and do communities of resident birds shift their abundances in cacao farms seasonally? (3) Do small scale changes in shade management of cacao farms affect bird diversity? Using fixed radius point counts and additional observations, we recorded 234 landbird species, with 102 species that were observed in both cacao and forest fragments, 86 species that were only observed in cacao farms, and 46 species that were restricted to forest fragments. Cacao farms were rich in canopy and edge species such as tanagers, flycatchers and migratory warblers, but understory insectivores were nearly absent from cacao farms. We observed 27 migratory species, with 18 species in cacao farms only, two species in forest only, and seven species that occurred in both habitats. In cacao farms, the diversity of birds was significantly greater where there was less intensive management of the canopy shade trees. Shade tree species richness was most important for explaining variance in bird diversity. Our study shows that shaded cacao farms in western Panama provide habitat for a wide variety of resident and migratory bird species. Considering current land use trends in the region, we suggest that action must be taken to prevent conversion away from shaded cacao farms to land uses with lower biodiversity conservation value.


Agroecosystem Bocas del Toro Bird diversity Migratory birds Theobroma cacao 



The authors thank E. Herre, S. Philpott, M. Libsch and several anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript. For assistance in the field we thank M. Morazon, I. Ochoa, M. Libsch, V. Aguilar, O. Morales, E. Herre and D. Herre. Many farmers offered their farms and shelter, and we give special thanks to the Lozado family in Charagre and the Aguilar family in La Gloria for facilitating this project. We thank the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and COCABO for logistical support. Permission to do this research was granted by the ANAM of Panama. All financial support came from the sale of Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center “Bird Friendly Coffee,” a certification and labeling program in which coffee companies dedicate $.25 per pound of coffee sales to research in shaded tropical agrosystems.

Supplementary material

10531_2007_9193_MOESM1_ESM.doc (191 kb)
Electronic Appendix (DOC 192 KB)


  1. Andersson MS, Gradstein SR (2005) Impact of management intensity on non-vascular epiphyte diversity in cacao plantations in western Ecuador. Biodivers Conserv 14:1101–1120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Canaday C (1996) Loss of insectivorous birds along a gradient of human impact in Amazonia. Biol Conserv 77:63–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cruz-Angon A, Greenberg R (2005) Are epiphytes important for birds in coffee plantations? An experimental assessment. J Appl Ecol 42:150–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dahlquist RM, Whelan MP, Winowiecki L, Polidoro B, Candela S, Harvey CA, Wulfhorst JD, McDaniel PA, Bosque-Pérez NA (2007) Incorporating livelihoods in biodiversity conservation: a case study of cacao agroforestry systems in Talamanca, Costa Rica. Biodivers Conserv (this issue)Google Scholar
  5. Estrada A, Coates-Estrada R (2005) Diversity of Neotropical migratory landbird species assemblages in forest fragments and man-made vegetation in Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Biodivers Conserv 14:1719–1734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Faria D, Laps RR, Baumgarten J, Cetra M (2006) Bat and bird assemblages from forests and shade cacao plantations in two contrasting landscapes in the Atlantic Forest of southern Bahia, Brazil. Biodivers Conserv 15:587–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gonzalez J, Harvey CA (2007) Bat and bird assemblages in the agroforestry landscape of Talamanca, Costa Rica. Biodivers Conserv (this issue)Google Scholar
  8. Greenberg R, Bichier P, Angon AC, MacVean C, Perez R, Cano E (2000) The impact of avian insectivory on arthropods and leaf damage in some Guatamalan coffee plantations. Ecology 81:1750–1755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Greenberg R, Bichier P, Sterling J (1997) Bird populations in rustic and planted shade coffee plantations of Eastern Chiapas, Mexico. Biotropica 29:501–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hughes JB, Daily GC, Ehrlich PR (2002) Conservation of tropical forest birds in countryside habitats. Ecol Lett 5:121–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. James FC, Shugart HH (1970) A quantitative method of habitat description. Audubon Field Notes 24:727–736Google Scholar
  12. Kaimowitz D (1996) Livestock and deforestation in Central America in the 1980s and 1990s: A policy perspective. Center for International Forestry Research, JakartaGoogle Scholar
  13. Levey DJ, Stiles FG (1994) Birds: ecology, behavior, and taxonomic affinities. In: McDade LA, Bawa KS, Hespenheide HA, Hartshorn GS (eds) La Selva: ecology and natural history of a neotropical rain forest. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  14. Loiselle BA, Blake JG (1991) Temporal variation in birds and fruits along an elevational gradient in Costa Rica. Ecology 72:180–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mas AH, Dietsch TV (2003) An index of management intensity for coffee agroecosystems to evaluate butterfly species richness. Ecol Appl 13:1491–1501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Nichols JD, Hines JE, Sauer JR, Fallon FW, Fallon JE, Heglund PJ (2000) A double-observer approach for estimating detection probability and abundance from point counts. Auk 117:393–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Perfecto I, Rice RA, Greenberg R, van Der Voort ME (1996) Shade coffee: A disappearing refuge for biodiversity. BioScience 46:598–608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Petit LJ, Petit DR, Christian DG, Powell HDW (1999) Bird communities of natural and modified habitats in Panama. Ecography 22:292–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Petit LJ, Saab VA, Martin TE (1994) Fixed-radius point counts in forests: factors influencing effectiveness and efficiency. In: Ralph CJ, Droege S, Sauer J (eds) Monitoring bird population trends by point counts. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report PSW-GRT-149, Fort Collins, Colorado, pp 51–59Google Scholar
  20. Reitsma R, Parrish JD, McLarney W (2001) The role of cacao plantations in maintaining forest avian diversity in southeastern Costa Rica. Agroforest Syst 53:185–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rice RA, Greenberg R (2000) Cacao cultivation and the conservation of biological diversity. AMBIO 29:167–173Google Scholar
  22. Roberts DL, Cooper RJ, Petit LJ (2000) Flock characteristics of ant-following birds in premontane moist forest and coffee agroecosystems. Ecol Appl 10:1414–1425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Robinson WD (2001) Changes in abundance of birds in a Neotropical forest fragment over 25 years: a review. Anim Biodivers Conserv 24:51–65Google Scholar
  24. Sekercioglu CH, Ehrlich PR, Daily GC, Aygen D, Goehring D, Sandi RF (2002) Disappearance of insectivorous birds from tropical forest fragments. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:263–267CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Sigel BJ, Sherry TW, Young BE (2006) Avian community response to lowland tropical rainforest isolation: 40 Years of change at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. Conserv Biol 20:111–121CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. StatXact (2004) 6.2.0 edn. Cytel Software CorporationGoogle Scholar
  27. Stratford JA, Stouffer PC (1999) Local extinctions of terrestrial insectivorous birds in a fragmented landscape near Manaus, Brazil. Conserv Biol 13:1416–1423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Systat (2004). 11 edn. Systat Software, IncGoogle Scholar
  29. Waltert M, Bobo KS, Sainge NM, Fermon H, Muhlenberg M (2005) From forest to farmland: habitat effects on afrotropical forest bird diversity. Ecol Appl 15:1351–1366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Waltert M, Mardiastuti A, Muhlenberg M (2004) Effects of land use on bird species richness in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Conserv Biol 18:1339–1346CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sunshine A. Van Bael
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Peter Bichier
    • 1
  • Isis Ochoa
    • 2
  • Russell Greenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Smithsonian Migratory Bird CenterNational Zoological ParkWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboa, AnconRepublic of Panama

Personalised recommendations