Conservation Value of Las Alturas
By Catherine Lindell
Michigan State University

Las Alturas plays a unique role in the conservation of biodiversity in Central America for several reasons. First, it is located on the Pacific slope of the Talamanca Mountains in Costa Rica. This area is considered by the World Wildlife Fund to be one of the "Global 200", one of the 238 most valuable ecoregions on earth with respect to conservation of the world's biodiversity (Olson & Dinerstein 2002).

Second, the property is immediately adjacent to Las Tablas protected zone, which is part of the Amistad Biosphere Reserve, the largest tract of forest in Central America. Its proximity to the reserve means that Las Alturas plays a vital role in providing a buffer between the park and the heavily agricultural landscape beyond Las Alturas.

Third, Las Alturas is extremely large for a privately-owned property (10,000 hectares) and most of the land area is covered with mature forest. Tropical forest supports very high numbers of species of all taxonomic groups, from fungi to butterflies to birds to mammals.

Fourth, the biodiversity supported on the property is enhanced by the maintenance of open and second-growth areas which provide habitat for species not found in forest. Finally, the owner of the property is committed to conservation and the preservation of native species.

Research on birds on the property indicates its conservation value. More than 200 species of birds have been detected and, because sampling techniques often miss rare species, the actual number of species is likely more than 300. Many of these bird species successfully nest on the property. Bird species that have disappeared from areas like the Central Valley of Costa Rica, for example the white-throated robin, are found in abundance at Las Alturas. Several migratory species that are on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National List of Birds of Conservation Concern (U.S.F.W.S. 2002) have been observed on the property, including the wood thrush, the golden-winged warbler, the worm-eating warbler, the Kentucky warbler, and the Louisiana waterthrush.

Las Alturas de Cotón Bird List
List compiled by Catherine Lindell. Detections by C. Lindell, Jim Zook, and Fernando Castañeda.
»View List

Contact Info
For more information about previous and on-going work with birds, please see the publications below or contact Catherine Lindell (


Brown, L. M., R. R. Ramey II, B. Tamburini, and T. A. Gavin. 2004. Population structure and mitochondrial DNA variation in sedentary Neotropical birds isolated by forest fragmentation. Consevation Genetics 5:743-757.

Cohen, E. B. and C. A. Lindell. 2004. Survival, habitat use, and movements of fledgling white-throated robins in a Costa Rican agricultural landscape. The Auk 121:404-414.

Cohen, E. B. and C. A. Lindell. 2005. Habitat use of adult White-throated Robins (Turdus assimilis) during the breeding season in a mosaic landscape in Costa Rica. The Journal of Field Ornithology 76:279-286.

Lindell, C. A., W. H. Chomentowski, and J. R. Zook. 2004. Characteristics of bird species using forest and agricultural land covers in southern Costa Rica. Biodiversity and Conservation 13:2419-2441.

Lindell, C. A., W. H. Chomentowski, J. R. Zook, and S. A. Kaiser. 2006. Generalizability of neotropical bird abundance and richness models. Animal Conservation 9:445-455.

Lindell, C. A. and M. L. Smith. 2003. Nesting bird species in coffee, pasture, and understory forest in southern Costa Rica. Biodiversity and Conservation 12:423-440.

Olson, D. M., and E. Dinerstein. 2002. The global 200: Priority ecoregions for global conservation. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 89:199-204.

U.S.F.W.S. 2002. Birds of Conservation Concern 2002. Division of Migratory Bird Management, Arlington, VA. 99 pp. [Online version available at]