One simple way to help birds is to support shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee! In the last 30 years, over half of the shade coffee farms have been converted to sun coffee farms, in order to increase production. Sun coffee farms require clear cutting forests, which destroys critical bird habitat. The conversion from shade-grown to sun-grown coffee has greatly contributed to the decline of Canadian bird species that overwinter in Latin America. This includes species at risk such as the Canada Warbler and Wood Thrush.
Bird-friendly coffee has various requirements that provide a healthy habitat for birds. In order for a farm to become certified as bird-friendly, it must have the organic certification, have a minimum of 40% canopy cover, and have a minimum canopy height of 12m. There is also criteria regarding the diversity of tree and shrub species, buffer zones for waterways, and ground layer and leaf litter presence. Bird-friendly certified coffee farms also must be recertified every three years to ensure that they are keeping up with standards.
North Americans need to support shade coffee farms in Latin America to reward the farmers for their efforts in protecting birds. If we do not support shade coffee farmers, they may be forced to abandon their practices and turn to the alternative: sun coffee, which generates higher yields but which has much higher environmental costs. Because shade-grown coffee generates lower yields, it costs more to buy in stores (which is the one negative aspect of bird-friendly coffee!). However, by paying a little extra for your coffee, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that your purchase is conserving critical habitat for birds overwintering in Latin America. Next time you purchase coffee look for the bird-friendly certification. A good place to look is Birds and Beans, all of their coffee is bird-friendly certified and they have a variety of options to suit every coffee drinkers needs. Lastly, North Americans drinks one-third of the world’s coffee, which means that by making this small change, we can make a difference! Help migratory birds by making the switch today!