World Teen - Main Article
Signup Teachers & Parents
A Coffee Pick-up for a Vanishing Bird
News Bytes 11/2/2018 11 Comments

Images of a tiny red bird pop up everywhere in Venezuela. The finch-like red siskin appears on printed money, food labels, and the covers of school books. But despite the brilliant red plumage, finding a red siskin in the wild is getting harder and harder. What’s the answer? “More coffee!” say some conservationists.

The little bird affectionately nicknamed “Cardenalito,” or “Little Cardinal,” is vanishing from the wild at an alarming rate. Poachers capture the birds to sell to canary breeders. Crossing the two produces unique orange feathers. A single red siskin can bring more than $300—months’ worth of income for a desperately poor family in Venezuela. Shrinking forests give the siskin fewer places to hide.

The threat brought together an international team. Scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., joined with poor coffee farmers in Venezuela’s remote mountains. Together, they will work on rescuing the red siskin from extinction. The plan is to entice farmers to plant organic coffee groves with layers of thick branches. That bramble is inviting—and protective—to the perching songbird.

Once flourishing in the millions, as few as 300 red siskins remain in the wild in Venezuela, estimates suggest. But it is difficult to determine numbers confidently in the politically turbulent and dangerous country. (See Dark Times for Socialist Venezuela on WORLDteen.) One scientist was robbed of his camera while tracking the birds.

“They don’t have many years left,” says Miguel Arvelo. The veterinarian works with the Caracas-based nonprofit Provita, a group spearheading the effort.

The Red Siskin Initiative to plant more organic coffee is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private groups in America and Venezuela. Planting organic groves with thick branches reverses a trend. Farmers often boost bean production by thinning groves for more sunlight. Or they cut them down altogether to plant vegetables that turn a quicker profit.

Farmers who meet the project’s standards will market their beans with “Bird Friendly” labels. They will also take advantage of a loophole in Venezuelan law to set prices for premium products, sometimes five times higher than caps set by the socialist government. Eventually the group hopes to export the coffee—increasing volume and profits for the farmers. Some 40 farmers in the rugged, coastal mountains have already agreed to stop cutting trees. That’s an important first step.

Simultaneously, a red siskin breeding center is being built at a private Venezuelan zoo. About 200 birds are expected to be hatched there next year. A few dozen more are caged at the Smithsonian Institution. Red siskins from the center will be introduced into the coffee groves.

Why all this effort for one small bird? Biodiversity is essential to nature’s balance. God instructed Noah to preserve every kind of animal. (Genesis 6:19-20) Conservationists at the Smithsonian saw a connection. They referred to keeping siskins there as “a sort of Noah’s ark” preservation of the species.

And if saving the endangered red siskin also can provide sustainable income for poor farmers in Venezuela, the solution might be a nearly miraculous opportunity to “kill (or save) two birds with one stone.”

You are of more value than many sparrows. — Luke 12:7

(Red siskins perch among branches near Vargas, Venezuela. AP Photo)

Leave a comment
  • Be respectful of everyone, including other readers as well as individuals in the news stories. Disagree politely.
  • Do not post links to websites outside of WORLDteen.
  • Keep personal information such as full name, age, location, and contact information private.
  • Read your comment before posting to be sure you have typed what you wish to say in public.
Sorry you are not allowed to publish comments. If this is the first time you are seeing this message please log out and back in. If you continue to see this message and believe this to be in error please reach out to member services.

Most recent comments

1st comment!!!!!!! :-)


Ha ha ha

Haha.that's OK, and a little funny.

Ha ha ha

Those birds are cute.


Any plan that grows more coffee beans for the world is fine with me! I love coffee!


Aww those birds are cute! No wonder poachers are after them. I hope they can be preserved!,

soooooooooo adorable!!!!!!!!!

soooooooooo adorable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

those birds are cute. I hope

those birds are cute. I hope they can "kill" 2 birds with one stone:d

The birds are so cuteeee!

The birds are so cuteeee!

They are!!!!!

They are!!!!!

oh my gosh!!! :D

Why are they so cute!?!? thx God for adorableness



Check out one of the interesting topics below
Explain IT!

Explain-IT trains you to understand the how’s and why’s of man-made inventions and ideas.

Learn More
Pop Smart

Pop! SMART provides tools that equip teenagers with the kinds of insights they need to wisely navigate today’s popular culture in a way that’s fun and engaging.

Learn More
Pie in the Sky

Everyone daydreams, and as it should be. Good dreams aside, our culture is a natural enemy of serenity and hope. God has equipped you for great things.

Learn More
People Mover

True stories are incredibly powerful. They bring meaning to our lives—communicating the truths we can’t afford to live without.

Learn More
Mud Room

Mud Room helps you relate to the news by exploring the details behind the stories in the headlines that relate to earth sciences.

Learn More
Globe Trek

Globe Trek will take you from the living room sofa to the mountains of Uzbekistan and from the screen of their smart phone to a Chilean plantation.

Learn More
Ka Ching!

ka-Ching! takes a look at important principles of money and economics through relatable examples from everyday life.

Learn More
Law 'N Order

Law ‘N Order captures your imagination through civics, focusing on the idea that everyone can make a difference in life.

Learn More

User login