White-winged Cotinga's Presence Indicates a Patch of Brazil's Atlantic Forest is Recovering

Last November, Brazilian ornithologist Dante Buzzetti spent a week in northeast Brazil at the Serra do Urubu reserve, drawn there by the chance to study birds found in the area. Run by ABC partner SAVE Brasil, Serra do Urubu protects one of the two most significant fragments of Atlantic Forest in this part of Brazil.

Serro do Urubu, Bennett Hennessey

Serra do Urubu, Bennett Hennessey

Over time, as the Atlantic Forest became fragmented and degraded because of intensive sugar-cane production and other human activity, Serra do Urubu has emerged as a last stronghold for many species, even those once thought common. It's home to 260 bird species, 10 of them globally threatened, including Golden-tailed Parrotlet, Orange-bellied Antwren, Pinto's Spinetail, Buff-breasted Tody-Tyrant, and Seven-colored Tanager.

In the last 15 years, SAVE Brasil has coordinated with many ornithologists and bird-watching groups who have visited the reserve. None had ever seen the White-winged Cotinga there. This large, fruit-eating bird, with its distinctive white-banded wings, is listed as endangered by the IUCN, and requires healthy Atlantic Forest habitat to survive.

White-winged Cotinga, Ciro Albano

White-winged Cotinga, Ciro Albano

Signs of a Recovering Forest

During his stay at the reserve, Buzzetti recorded two White-winged Cotingas—great news for this threatened Atlantic Forest habitat. The birds' presence in Serra do Urubu signals that the forest there, heavily disturbed before the area was protected, is recuperating.

The White-winged Cotinga isn't the only species to have established a presence at Serra do Urubu. In the last seven years, SAVE Brasil has recorded many bird species, several of them threatened, moving into the recuperating forest. The birds have been using areas of Atlantic Forest that were once highly disturbed—more evidence that protecting sensitive habitat and allowing it to regenerate is an effective way to bring back threatened birds.

Seven-colored Tanager, Thiago Abdo Costa Calil

Seven-colored Tanager, Thiago Abdo Costa Calil

Buzzetti's sighting of the White-winged Cotingas, with their striking plumage, should motivate more birdwatchers and nature lovers to visit the area. Bird-loving visitors can find pleasure in their contact with nature while supporting important conservation work.

ABC supports SAVE Brasil's important conservation work at Serra do Urubu. Together we're exploring the possibility of expanding this critical protected area of northeastern Brazilian Atlantic Forest to ensure the long-term survival of its unique biodiversity.

(Love Atlantic Forest birds? Learn about our work to benefit species like Stresemann's Bristlefront, one of the world's rarest species, and the endangered Araripe Manakin.)