Expansion of Brazilian "Songbird Forest" Reserve Protects Some of the World's Rarest Birds

Banded Cotinga, Ciro Albano

Banded Cotinga, one of the species that will benefit from an expansion of the Mata do Passarinho Reserve in Brazil. Photo by Ciro Albano

Contact: Jennifer Howard, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7472

(Washington, D.C., Jan. 5, 2016) The Brazilian conservation group Fundação Biodiversitas, with support from American Bird Conservancy, has secured a tract of vital Atlantic Forest habitat for the Stresemann's Bristlefront, listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and other rare species like the Banded Cotinga (shown). The acquisition adds 766 acres to the 1,586-acre Mata do Passarinho Reserve, bringing the total protected area to 2,352 acres. This expansion represents a major step toward the preservation of the many species that rely on this unique and threatened forest region.

Because of deforestation, the reserve “is like an oasis in a desert,” said Gláucia Drummond, Executive Director of Fundação Biodiversitas. Expanding the protected area represents “one of the most promising and effective ways to save the Stresemann's Bristlefront from extinction” and to preserve the area's rich biological heritage, she said.

Biodiversitas created the reserve in 2007 with ABC support. The reserve sits at the southernmost point of a rare forest complex—one of the last patches of Atlantic Forest in northern Minas Gerais and southern Bahia states—that shelters numerous endangered species. The newly protected area includes large areas of primary forest as well as former cattle-grazing areas that, untouched for more than a decade, have become robust secondary forests.

Stresemann's Reserve location

Site of the newly expanded reserve

The Mata do Passarinho Reserve, an Alliance for Zero Extinction site, represents the last known home of the Stresemann's Bristlefront. With a population of fewer than 15 known individuals, the ground-nesting bird is one of the most endangered species on the planet.

“With this acquisition, the Mato do Passarinho Reserve now protects all the forest known to be occupied by the Stresemann's Bristlefront,” said Daniel Lebbin, ABC's Vice President for International Programs. “Additional expeditions are needed to confirm if any other bristlefronts may still persist in additional forest fragments nearby.”

“Mata do Passarinho” is Portuguese for “Songbird Forest.” Many other endangered bird species shelter in the reserve, including the Banded Cotinga, Brown-backed Parrotlet, Red-browed Parrot, Hook-billed Hermit, and Bahia Tyrannulet. Rare mammals—including the maned three-toed sloth and the yellow-breasted capuchin monkey, which is listed as Critically Endangered by IUCN—will also benefit from the expansion of the protected area.

The Atlantic Forest stretches along the Brazilian coastline from the state of Rio Grande do Norte south to Rio Grande do Sul, and reaches inland as far as Paraguay in the south. With intense human development in the region, the forest has been reduced to about eight percent of its original extent. In some places it has disappeared almost completely. The expansion of the Mata do Passarinho Reserve helps guarantee the survival of this rare and threatened ecosystem and the many species that rely on it.

Stresemann's Bristlefront, Biodiversitas

Stresemann's Bristlefront numbers fewer than 15 known individuals. Photo by Biodiversitas

As well as harboring many rare and endemic species, the Atlantic Forest helps ensure clean water and air and other essential environmental services for the area's human population. “We want the reserve to be a source of pride for local communities and for public managers as well as being an opportunity to generate income for these people and municipalities,” Drummond said. “The challenge now is to raise awareness among neighboring landowners about local production practices and help them understand the importance of maintaining and restoring native forest.”

In addition to helping secure the latest Mata do Passarinho expansion, “ABC has assisted the reserve with guard housing, reforestation programs, and a Stresemann's Bristlefront monitoring program,” said Bennett Hennessey, ABC's Brazil Program Coordinator. ABC and the reserve have also established a conservation program that includes supplementing the bristlefronts' food supply and providing artificial burrows for the ground-nesting birds.


This acquisition was made possible through the generous contributions of David and Patricia Davidson, David Harrison, George and Cathy Ledec, Michael Reid, the Jacaranda Foundation, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory Tropical Forest Forever Fund, Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, and IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL). The project is also supported by the Global Environment Facility, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the Hildegard and Hans Schaefer Foundation, and the United Nations Environment Program.


American Bird Conservancy
is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.
Biodiversitas_logo Fundação Biodiversitas' mission is the conservation of Brazilian biodiversity. A nongovernmental organization based in Belo Horizonte, Biodiversitas has promoted science-based conservation in Brazil since 1989 and acts as a reference center for the collection and application of scientific knowledge.