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Save America's Cerulean Warbler populationpa38AC59CC7C9E30695E.png

Save the Cerulean Warbler

  • The beautiful Cerulean Warbler is America’s fastest declining migratory songbird.
  • Mountaintop mining completely destroys the forest habitat of Cerulean Warblers and many other species.
  • Shade coffee plantations in the northern Andes provide wintering habitat for the Cerulean Warbler.
  • With ABC\'s help, Colombian partner group Fundación ProAves has established a Cerulean Warbler Reserve to protection both wintering warblers and rare endemic Colombian bird species.
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Photo by: Barth Schorre
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Project Summary

The Cerulean Warbler is America’s fastest declining migratory songbird. Populations have fallen by as much as 70% since the 1960s, and the trend continues downward. This beautiful blue denizen of mature deciduous forests has suffered following widespread deforestation for agricultural and energy development. The bird is now increasingly found in marginal secondary forest habitat that has regenerated following the abandonment of farms, growth of trees following timber harvests, and other reforestation efforts. Nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds increased as forests became more fragmented, further impacting populations, and mountaintop mining now further threatens the warbler by wiping out mountain and valley habitat and decimating streams. On its wintering grounds, the Cerulean Warbler has also experienced significant habitat loss due to agricultural expansion and the conversion of shade coffee plantations to sun coffee farms, devoid of the large trees that the species needs to survive. American Bird Conservancy is working to identify, protect, and manage critical breeding habitat, put a halt to mountaintop mining in the Appalachian region, and is working with partners in Latin America to reduce the conversion of coffee farms to sun plantations by offering growers the chance to earn premium rates for beans marketed as Cerulean Warbler-friendly. ABC has also helped protect vital wintering habitat by working with partners in Colombia to create the Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve, the first reserve in Latin America dedicated to the conservation of a U.S. migrant songbird.
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Project Summary

The Cerulean Warbler is America’s fastest declining migratory songbird. Populations have fallen by as much as 70% since the 1960s, and the trend continues downward. This beautiful blue denizen of mature deciduous forests has suffered following widespread deforestation for agricultural and energy development. The bird is now increasingly found in marginal secondary forest habitat that has regenerated following the abandonment of farms, growth of trees following timber harvests, and other reforestation efforts. Nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds increased as forests became more fragmented, further impacting populations, and mountaintop mining now further threatens the warbler by wiping out mountain and valley habitat and decimating streams. On its wintering grounds, the Cerulean Warbler has also experienced significant habitat loss due to agricultural expansion and the conversion of shade coffee plantations to sun coffee farms, devoid of the large trees that the species needs to survive. American Bird Conservancy is working to identify, protect, and manage critical breeding habitat, put a halt to mountaintop mining in the Appalachian region, and is working with partners in Latin America to reduce the conversion of coffee farms to sun plantations by offering growers the chance to earn premium rates for beans marketed as Cerulean Warbler-friendly. ABC has also helped protect vital wintering habitat by working with partners in Colombia to create the Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve, the first reserve in Latin America dedicated to the conservation of a U.S. migrant songbird.

Issues

The Cerulean Warbler is perhaps the most beautiful American bird you have never seen. It is small and flits around in the high canopy of deciduous trees where it is very hard to spot. It is also becoming rarer each year, a result of deforestation in both its winter and breeding habitat. It is not protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act, meaning that remaining habitat is vulnerable and crucial federal conservation funding is unavailable. In Colombia, Ecuador, and other South American countries, shade-coffee farms that formerly provided habitat in the form of large deciduous trees are being converted to higher-yield sun coffee farms, while other habitat is disappearing to make way for agriculture. In the Appalachian region of the United States, mountaintop removal/valley fill coal mining (and surface mining in general) is also impacting Cerulean habitat. In order to access coal seams, entire mountaintops are blasted and the resultant rubble dumped into neighboring valleys, laying thousands of acres of habitat to waste at a stroke, and destroying river flows.

Goals

American Bird Conservancy has devoted its efforts to the conservation of the Cerulean Warbler on both its breeding and wintering grounds. A priority of the program is to bring a halt to the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining, which continues to turn mountainous forest habitat into flat wasteland. On the species’ Colombian wintering grounds, ABC is protecting areas of key habitat and helping both birds and coffee farmers by offering the farmers an economically viable alternative to cutting down the shade trees on their plantations. Through reforestation efforts in the Appalachian region in tandem with the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture, and protection of key habitat in Latin America, ABC hopes to see populations of the Cerulean Warbler stabilize and begin increasing.

Progress To-Date

American Bird Conservancy raised the necessary funds to enable its Colombian partner group Fundación ProAves to establish the Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve, the first private Latin American reserve aimed at protecting a migrating songbird that breeds in the U.S. and Canada. ABC also worked with ProAves to begin marketing Cerulean Warbler Conservation Coffee, which offers coffee farmers an economically viable alternative to converting their plantations to sun coffee. ABC has also supported efforts to halt mountaintop removal coal mining in the Appalachian region, and is backing two bills that are now gaining momentum in Congress to stop this practice. ABC is also working with the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture to support a green jobs initiative that will enable the reforestation of several hundred thousand acres of neglected coal mines to benefit the Cerulean Warbler and other priority species as well as local residents.
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