Russell S. Greenberg, Ph.D.

Center Head
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Migratory Bird Center
City, Zip
Washington, D.C., 20008
Award Year


Project Details

Greenberg undertook three main projects over the term of his Pew Fellowship: (1) a Pan-boreal bird research program, (2) research into the development of "bird-friendly" coffee and (3) support for the operations of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, which had just opened at the time he applied for a Pew award.

The Pan-boreal program addressed opportunities that arose with the collapse of the Soviet Union to conduct comparative research on boreal ecosystems and to open ties with Russian ornithologists. The purpose of the research was to investigate the role of ecological and historical factors in determining the abundance, diversity and ecological structure of bird assemblages in the boreal forest zone, one of the most extensive temperate forest biomes.

His "bird-friendly coffee" project researched the role of coffee agroecosystems in bird conservation. Work in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico, showed that shaded coffee plantations that use a taxonomically and structurally diverse canopy supported a high diversity and abundance of migratory birds whereas plantations with less diverse shade or no canopy at all were poor habitats for birds. Work in Panama, in collaboration with Jeff Parrish of Brown University, demonstrated the importance of the proximity of coffee plantations to large forest reserves for bird communities.

Greenberg and his colleagues organized and hosted the First Sustainable Coffee Congress and founded the Sustainable Coffee Coalition. Producers from around the world, scientists, organic certifiers and fair-traders, coffee brokers, roasters and retailers attended the Congress. As a result, the Specialty Coffee Association of America made environmental protection part of its organizational mission.

Ongoing Migratory Bird Center efforts in Mexico and Panama examine in further detail the conservation value to birds of shade coffee plantations relative to sun-grown coffee and tropical forest habitats by addressing effects on survival as well as abundance of migratory and resident species. In addition, researchers endeavor to identify important food plants and other resources that increase the carrying capacity of coffee agroecosystems for birds.


Russell Greenberg established and is the director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, a multidisciplinary center for research and action on preserving migratory birds and their far-flung habitats. Prior to his role with the Migratory Bird Center, Greenberg was a post-doctoral fellow and research associate at the Smithsonian National Zoo until 1991.

Greenberg conducts research on the ecology of birds in the tropics including sites in Panama, Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean. He established a migratory bird research center in Chiapas, Mexico with field sites in the highlands and the Lacandon Forest. In addition to research on migratory bird populations and land use, this effort involved the training and sponsorship of Latin American students and collaboration on conservation projects with PRONATURA.

He also works on migratory birds in the temperate zone of the U.S., Canada and Russia. Research interests include habitat selection, the ecology and evolution of migration, interspecific interaction and the use of human-modified tropical habitats. Greenberg's research-to-date has resulted in the publication of 60 papers and three books on habitat and bird conservation. In particular, Saving the Tropical Forests, highly regarded for its breadth and depth of inquiry, develops an overall strategy for tropical forest conservation and explores how 38 local projects fit into this framework.


Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center



Ph.D., University of California
1981: Zoology, Berkeley, California, USA

Bachelor of Arts, University of California
1976: Zoology, Berkeley, California, USA


Marine Fellow
1991: Pew Fellows Program in Conservation and the Environment


  • Gradwohl, J. and R. Greenberg. 1998. Saving the Tropical Forests. Earthscan Publications, Ltd
  • Greenberg, R. and J. Reaser. 1998. Bring Back the Birds: What You Can Do to Save the Threatened Species. DIANE Publishing Company
  • Greenberg, R. 1991. Birds Over Troubled Forests. Migratory Bird Center, Washington, DC
  • Askins, R., R. Greenberg, and J. Lynch. 1990. Declines in birds of eastern deciduous forests. Current Ornithology 7:1--57
  • Greenberg, R. 1990. Southern Mexico: Crossroads for Migratory Birds. Migratory Bird Center, Washington, DC
  • Greenberg, R. and S. Droege. 1990. Adaptations to tidal marshes in breeding populations of the swamp sparrow. Condor 92:393-404
  • Lopez Ornat, A. and R. Greenberg. 1990. Sexual segregation by habitat in migratory warblers of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Auk 107:539-543