Coffee and Birds: An Important Connection

There is a good chance that, you, the reader of this blog, enjoys your daily cup(s) of coffee. Another likelihood is that you enjoy the amazing birds that live in your yard/community. Is there a connection? Absolutely!

Historically, coffee was grown in the shade of the surrounding rainforest. As coffee became more popular, companies looked for ways to increase coffee bean production while reducing costs.  Enter “sun” coffee, something that is counter intuitive when thinking about the shade loving shrub that coffee is! By clear-cutting the forest for full-sun plantations, companies were able to increase production but at a cost. With sun coffee, farmers have to add synthetic fertilizers and pesticides due to the limited nutrients in the soil. Shade grown coffee flourishes in the functioning forest ecosystem and does not require these added chemicals to promote growth. In fact, shade loving coffee shrubs thrive in the traditional shade of the rainforest.  

Right now (winter), millions of the birds-neotropical migrants- that either breed in our backyards, or migrate through our property on the way to Canada and the Arctic(!), are in the rainforests of Central or South America. They are eating the bugs that are in the trees and help the ecosystem to stay in balance. What will happen to these birds if they have no rainforest to migrate to? They will cease to exist, at least in the numbers of the past. And the birds will not grace your yard with their brilliant colors (think Baltimore oriole!) and beautiful songs. The bugs in your yard will also increase substantially.

In buying organic, shade-grown coffee, you will be allowing these birds to do what they have done for thousands of years, migrate to a safe place with ample food. And you will be giving small farmers a chance to make a living wage, while protecting them and their children from exposure to toxic chemicals. 

It’s a win-win!

As consumers, we have the power to demand coffee that is less damaging to the environment and migratory birds. Make the change for the birds, your health and for our planet.

Written by: Susan Krause, Naturalist Educator

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