Pictures of the bird called the red siskin appear on Venezuela’s money, on products and in school books. The “Little Cardinal,” as the bird is known, is loved by Venezuelans. But the small song bird is disappearing from the wild. It has become the victim of shrinking forests and poachers who want to sell their bright red feathers.
That threat has brought together an international team. The team includes scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. and coffee farmers in Venezuela's mountains. They hope to save the bird. The plan is to have farmers plant organic coffee plants. Such coffee plants are covered with branches which make good nesting places for the birds.
"They don't have many years left, unless we do something right now," said Miguel Arvelo. He is an animal doctor for the nonprofit group Provita in Caracas. It is one of the groups leading the effort.
Once found in the millions, as few as 300 red siskins remain in Venezuela. However, scientists say it is difficult to estimate their numbers now because of Venezuela’s current economic crisis and violence.
An effort to save the birds
The Red Siskin Initiative began about three years ago on a budget of less than $100,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private groups in the U.S. and Venezuela.
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