Is Your Java for the Birds?

What does your morning java have to do with birds? Possibly a whole lot. And if you are like many who love birds and love seeing them in your yard and hearing them in the forests and meadows, you may be happy to know that you can really help birds by your coffee choice!

Songbird species are declining in numbers due to a number of factors. Some species like the Canada Warbler are down in numbers by 2/3rd since the 1960s! Where there used to be three birds, there’s only one. Many other species are also suffering big declines.

The very biggest reason for declining songbird numbers is habitat destruction. For the birds that fly south for the winter, they may arrive home in Latin America, for instance, to discover their winter retreat has been turned into an open growth coffee plantation! Open growth means the bird’s prized trees could be gone! Where to roost? Where to find food? Where to hang out in the shade?

So many of the coffee plantations used to grow coffee plants that flourished under a natural canopy of shrubs and trees. But for many years, farmer after farmer has bulldozed them in order to switch to the open growth plants. Now you can find acres and acres of these plants which can handle the full sun and more importantly grow faster. It’s a race for the almighty dollar at the expense of natural habitat.

Where does your coffee come from? If you check the package and it doesn’t say shade grown, it is mostly likely open growth. If you drink fair trade and/or organic coffee, it may also be shade grown, but you may have to read the package carefully to find the reference to it. The package could display the bird friendly seal of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s “Bird-Friendly” seal. Or the package might simply say “bird-friendly”. Fortunately there are many options of coffee brands out there to choose from for shade grown coffee. They are even in most mainstream stores and certainly in health food stores or you can order online.Smithsonian bird friendly seal

If you decide to choose bird-friendly coffee, it won’t only help the birds but it also supports farmers! With shade grown coffee also typically being organic, far fewer chemicals are used compared to open growth coffee. This is good for farmer’s health as well as your own. The birds win, the farmers win and you win because you get to drink great coffee!

Habitat destruction is the number one threat to birds. Simply changing your coffee purchase can help to convince producers to grow shade coffee plants. You can vote with your dollars for the preservation of habitat for birds.

My favourite bird-friendly coffee is Kicking Horse brand but I have also enjoyed Salt Spring Island coffee. What’s your favourite bird-friendly coffee?

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4 Responses to Is Your Java for the Birds?

  1. briangspare says:

    Nice to see a new post on your blog. This is an education. I am not a coffee drinker, but now I’m wondering where and how my tea is grown.

    • Deanna says:

      Hi Brian, Thanks for your comment! I have been quiet here in my blog for some time….been working on the book. But I thought I’d do a post about birds and how we can protect them. As to your tea, I have heard there are a number of brands that a full of pesticides. I think if you are drinking organic, you should be okay. I’m not sure whether tea plantations have negatively impacted birds, though. I’ll have to look into that.

  2. Hi Deanna,
    thank you for your post (also in theIeca).
    I am from Colombia, where the coffee region had used that kind of plantations without other trees. That was a time of industrialisation, that had to change because of the lower prices, and the really bad social-and economic situation of the coffee-growers.
    They change gradually to their traditional way of little coffee-farms that mix coffee-trees with fruit-trees (banana or avocado trees) and other products. Diversification is the concept.
    The onliest problem that I see in all this changes and changes and changes is that the market-prices encourage them and not the logic that for example exist behind a bio-product. What I want to ask is if there is an other way of communication between producer, the farmer and the consumer, a word that I don’t like because it sounds really as an automat.

    • Deanna says:

      Hi Maria, Thanks for your sharing and question. I have seen that some farmers are connecting directly with people who order right from the farmer and bypass the distribution system altogether. I saw that in a documentary film called Birdsong and Coffee: A wake up call. It came out a few years ago. The farmers were in Costa Rica. We screened the film in our documentary film and discussion series. Here is a link to it with more information: I hope this helps. It would be great to help both the birds and the farmers! So much better that way. For the coffee I drink, I’ve been buying a brand of coffee called Kicking Horse for years. It is roasted in British Columbia. It is fair trade, organic and shade grown. And, it tastes good, too!

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