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Make a positive impact by drinking bird-friendly coffee

For many people, the routine of sipping a cup of coffee while admiring the birds fluttering about their bird feeder is a great start to the morning.

However, while you’re definitely giving back by helping feed the birds, there’s a possibility you’re doing harm to countless migratory birds that go through Latin America by drinking your coffee.

Birds & Coffee

If you’re wondering how your coffee might affect birds, the interactions between coffee plants and birds is well-document. In many countries, especially those in Latin America, coffee bushes provide key habitats to migrating birds traveling away from the cold. Here’s an excerpt from Audubon’s site on the interaction:

About 200 different species of birds are known as neotropical migrants, breeding in the habitat and backyards of North America and migrating south to Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean islands for the winter. There, the multi-layered vegetation of shade-grown coffee plantations provides abundant food and cover. In many areas, coffee farms offer the only good habitat amid deforested pastures and stark monocultures.

Essentially, since the very beginning, shade-grown coffee bushes have provided birds an excellent place to seek shelter, create a positive environment as well as provide much-needed feasting areas while stopping during a migration.

All of this was true until the rise of sun-grown coffee.

Sun-grown vs. Shade-grown coffee

As stated earlier, shade-grown coffee has been the natural and most prevalent way of growing coffee bushes. Early coffee plants would essentially bake and die if placed in direct sunlight. This meant that coffee could only grow under canopies and areas with a lot a trees.

However, over the past 30 years, new modified coffee plants that are resistant to the sun have been developed. These plants are much more prolific, producing more coffee each year. Of course, like any modified plant, there are many negatives, including needing more pesticides and contributing to toxic water runoff.

One of the biggest environmental impacts is on the birds, which lose vital habitats. Huge sun-grown coffee plantations are wastelands to birds and provide nothing. Some of the affected birds include Barn Swallows, Western Kingbirds, Wood Thrushes, Yellow Warblers and many more.

Birds & Beans

Fortunately, a growing number of people are pushing back against sun-grown coffee. One of these fantastic companies spearheading the effort to get people to realize the consequences of each sip is Birds & Beans. (To be honest, I’ve never had Birds & Beans coffee, but it seems like a no-brainer to think that natural shade-grown coffee is significantly better than fertilized sun-grown coffee covered in pesticides.)

The company, in conjunction with a number of organizations, ensures that its coffee has the “Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) ‘Bird Friendly’® independent certification.”

They have a host of retailers around the country, which sell the certified 100 percent, organic bird-friendly coffee. If you can, try to buy the coffee with the bird-friendly logo on it.

So, when you’re starting your morning off with coffee and birds, remember to make sure you start it off the right way with bird-friendly coffee.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.