How Choosing the Right Coffee Can Help Birds

Bananaquit Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

The choice we make for our morning coffee can have a good or adverse affect on birds. Many of the birds we see during nesting season – like warblers, tanagers and other songbirds – have now made their way south to overwinter in Latin America. There the availability of food and safe habitat in their overwintering site directly affects the probability they will return north the following year and breed.  With millions of acres given over to growing coffee, bird friendly coffee plantations are critical to the well being of resident birds, and migratory birds who have made their way to Latin and South America. But while there are increased numbers of bird-friendly growing practices being utilized, this is still not the norm. Want to help birds when you are having breakfast?

Growing coffee in full sun has long been considered the way to get the best coffee at the best price. To do that, the forest is cleared, eliminating much needed habitat for birds and other wildlife, and pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used to protect a crop which no longer has much natural protection. But full sun might really not be the best and most profitable way to grow coffee as evidenced by a study by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  By replanting about ⅓ of the land with trees to cover the coffee crop, the trees play host to up to 50 species of very hungry birds who are looking for insects and really love eating la broca – a coffee-specific insect which bores into the bean and ruins it.  So, just by planting native trees over the crop, the need for pesticides is eliminated, and the cost of growing the coffee is lowered.  And if fruit trees are planted, then this is an additional cash crop, and also provides more food sources for wildlife. All this means farmers can benefit from making their farms attractive to birds, and we can support these farmers by buying coffee which is gown under these conditions.  
Coffee that benefits people and birds all have these three things in common:
  •  the crop is shade grown – under planted trees or an existing   canopy
  •  it is organically produced with no chemicals or GMO products
  •  it is fair trade which means it is socially sustainably produced
To help birds, farmers, their workers and get a great cup of coffee, learn more about what to look for in an environmentally friendly coffee in this article from Audubon.  And learn more about the Smithsonian certification for bird friendly coffee.  Once you know the facts, it’s an easy choice to make!
Check out these bird-friendly sustainable coffees:
Bird and Wild in the UK
#3billionbirds #bringbirdsback