It’s time we start saving birds with every sip!
As you will see below, an easy way to help birds is to drink BIRD-FRIENDLY coffee.
But unfortunately, not many people know about bird-friendly coffee or why it’s so beneficial. Today, my goal is to change that.
Below, I’m providing 5 powerful reasons WHY you should ONLY drink bird-friendly coffee.
Before we begin, I want to answer one question:
What exactly is “bird-friendly” coffee?
Bird-Friendly coffee is a program started by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center of the National Zoo. They offer this certification to coffee products that meet their growing requirements. In general, coffee that is grown in a mix of foliage cover, tree height, and biodiversity that creates quality habitat for birds and other wildlife is considered “bird-friendly.” We are going to learn much more about why this is important for birds below.
Most importantly, look for the Bird Friendly® seal on coffee to know if that product is benefiting birds or not.
Ok, let’s jump into 5 ways that drinking bird-friendly coffee helps birds!
#1. Bird-friendly coffee fights deforestation.
Naturally, coffee is SHADE-GROWN, which means it grows best shaded by a canopy of other native trees. These tropical shrubs evolved to grow in the shade among a plethora of other vegetation in the rainforest.
But in the 1970s, as coffee kept getting more and more popular, producers started looking for ways to get a better coffee yield and keep up with the demand. It was found that coffee beans that grow in the SUN mature much faster than when grown in the shade.
So, of course, forests started being cleared to transform rainforests into monoculture coffee plantations. Instead of growing coffee in the shade, now almost all coffee is grown in the sun. And as you can imagine, since sun-grown coffee doesn’t need other trees to provide shade, every other type of tree is clear cut.
Sadly, it’s estimated that approximately 2.5 MILLION acres of rainforest in just Central America have been destroyed to grow coffee. Moreover, coffee farms are monocultures that don’t support much wildlife, which brings us to our next reason for drinking bird-friendly coffee.
#2. Bird-friendly coffee preserves biodiversity.
The main problem with sun-grown coffee plantations is they don’t support many wildlife species. Rows and rows of coffee shrubs baking in the sun act much like your traditional farm field that has corn or soybeans. It’s not good for wildlife as not many species can live there.
On the other hand, bird-friendly, shade-grown coffee is incredibly beneficial to birds and other wildlife. For example, take a look at the chart below:
As you can see, coffee grown in the shade of other larger trees supports FOUR TIMES the number of bird species versus sun-grown coffee. This is because many different trees live together, and the environment acts much more like a thriving ecosystem versus a monoculture devoid of life.
And it’s not just birds that benefit. Think about the mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and other wildlife that can thrive on a bird-friendly, shade-grown coffee farm.
A monoculture coffee plantation doesn’t benefit anyone or anything other than coffee companies that want to offer cheap coffee.
#3. Bird-friendly coffee helps migrating birds.
Most people that visit Bird Watching HQ are super passionate about birds. I’m sure you go to great lengths to find the best feeders and food, along with planting lots of native vegetation, helping to create an incredible habitat for wildlife in your yard.
But what about the birds that migrate south to Central America for winter?
If migrating neotropical birds, such as tanagers, orioles, and warblers, can’t find appropriate habitats to spend their winters, they won’t survive. As more and more rain forests are destroyed to produce coffee, many birds are having a harder and harder time surviving and finding places to live.
I love sitting outside, with a coffee in my hand, watching the birds in my yard. But isn’t it a sobering thought that the coffee I’m drinking could be contributing to the decline of the colorful species that are so fun to watch during warmer months?
#4. Bird-friendly coffee tastes better.
So, as we discussed earlier, growing coffee in the sun makes it grow faster and ultimately produces more coffee at a lower price. But, there is a HUGE advantage with shade-grown coffee when compared to sun-grown coffee.
Coffee that is grown in the shade of other trees tastes the best!
The reason for the taste discrepancy is that shade-grown coffee allows the beans to grow and mature naturally. And while it takes longer, the bean develops more evenly and becomes more saturated with oils and sugars, which leads to a more flavorful coffee. There are some things you can’t rush, and delicious coffee is one of those things!
Isn’t it sad that we are willing to sacrifice flavor and destroy millions of acres of the rainforest for a slightly cheaper cup of coffee?
#5. Bird-friendly coffee is less toxic for you!
The last great thing about coffee that has been certified bird-friendly is that it’s organic!
Unfortunately, just like most monoculture farms, sun-grown coffee plantations have to use massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides to control bugs and weeds. These poisons are necessary because growing so many plants so close together is incredibly unnatural.
But to qualify as bird-friendly coffee, it MUST be grown without dangerous chemicals. The best part is that pesticides aren’t needed when coffee is grown naturally in the shade because birds do all the work! Since so many different bird species can live on shade-grown coffee farms, they feast on insects and other invertebrates. These natural ecosystems keep everything in balance, so huge infestations of pests never become a problem!
I don’t think I need to explain why you don’t want to ingest pesticides. They have been linked with many forms of cancer and other problems. The more of these poisons we can keep out of our body, the better!
Please keep in mind that not all shade-grown coffee is bird-friendly certified.
Unfortunately, some coffee companies try to use the term “shade-grown” as a marketing term. They want you to feel good about buying their coffee.
Before buying coffee, make sure it has the “Bird-Friendly” certification. These are the only farms that have been inspected and approved to the strict standards of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.
Your dollars vote – what are you voting for?
Currently, roughly 37,000 acres of coffee farms have been certified as bird-friendly in 11 countries. This is great but a little depressing when you think about the 2.5 MILLION acres that have been cleared for other coffee farms just in Central America.
The only way to encourage more farms to obtain bird-friendly certification is by creating demand. The bird-friendly program is great, but not enough people are aware of it. As people that care about birds in our yards, we can start saving birds with every sip.
Before leaving today, make sure to check out this list of coffee brands that are certified bird-friendly:
Why do you drink bird-friendly coffee?
Let us know in the COMMENTS below!