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Some forest birds can survive in agricultural countryside with limited habitat conservation

Some tropical forest birds can survive alongside humans if given a helping hand, according to a recent study by Cagan H. Sekercioglu, senior scientist at the Stanford University Center for Conservation Biology.

The results, published in the April 2007 issue of the journal Conservation Biology, could influence the way countries approach endangered species protection in agricultural areas, Sekercioglu said. "Even modest restoration efforts can increase their land cover and help some forest birds more than you would think," he said.

The study was conducted in Costa Rica at the Las Cruces Biological Station of the Organization for Tropical Studies, where most of the forested terrain has been converted to open coffee plantations or pasture-unfavorable habitats for birds, according to Sekercioglu. In previous studies, researchers had identified nearly 200 bird species in coffee plantations by simply capturing or observing them there. "If you do that, you might think, 'Well, these birds are doing fine in coffee plantations," Sekercioglu said.

However, he felt that simply seeing the birds in coffee plantations was not sufficient evidence to conclude that they had adapted to life outside their native habitat. Sekercioglu wanted to follow the birds more closely. He and his team set up a comprehensive bird-banding and radio-tracking system to monitor the birds' positions throughout the day.

First, they hung mist nets in various places in the coffee plantations to catch a large sample size of birds of three particular species. Then, they tagged each bird with two colored leg bands and an aluminum ring with an identification number. Using false-eyelash glue, they attached a radio-transmitter with a battery life of one-to-three months. The team tagged and tracked a total of 156 birds during the study.

"We had a Pathfinder packed with 10 people and gear," he recalled. "A couple times we had people hanging onto the outside. It's
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-725-9296
Stanford University
24-May-2007


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