Shade Grown Coffee Protects Migratory Birds and Makes a Delicious Cup of Coffee
Coffee - it is perhaps surprising that something so commonplace in our everyday
lives, so ubiquitous throughout culture, plays such an important role in the
lives of our migratory birds. Facing devastating habitat loss and degradation
on their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada as well as on their wintering
grounds in Central and South America, migratory birds have found refuge in the
lush forest-like environments of traditional coffee plantations. In fact, researchers
at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center have revealed that of all agricultural
systems in the tropics, traditionally-managed coffee plantations support more
species of birds -- over 150 -- than any other type of agriculture.
Yet coffee farming in Latin America is changing. Traditionally, coffee was grown under a canopy of shade trees, providing critical wintering habitat for many species of migratory birds and preserving the rich biodiversity inherent in tropical rainforests. Increasingly, however, industrial coffee farms, where land is cleared of its lush vegetation to grow coffee in full sun, are replacing traditional coffee farms. With this conversion from traditional shade grown to industrial sun-grown coffee comes a corresponding decrease in migratory bird species, and this decrease in species diversity is dramatic -- over 90% fewer bird species are found on sun-grown coffee farms than on shade-grown coffee farms.
By choosing shade grown coffee, coffee drinkers not only help common birds
that use shade coffee plantations during the winter like the Baltimore Oriole
and Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but also a host of at risk WatchList species.
Please visit the Audubon Watchlist
to learn about species that are facing threats such as habitat loss on their breeding and wintering grounds or with limited geographic ranges.