Coffee Lovers Alert: Are You Unknowingly Killing Our Songbirds?

coffee beans
coffee beans | Source

Is Cheap Coffee Really the Best Choice?

I heard it the other day in the grocery store, “Kenny, go grab Mommy some coffee, please.” The response: “okay, Mommy, but which one?” To which Mommy replied, “it doesn’t matter, just pick the cheapest one.”

Cheap does not equate to best most of the time. The best coffee beans are grown by small farmers whose livelihood depends on the quality of their crops. They take a lot of pride in what they do, and often hand down the land and the knowledge to the next generation.

Old TV Commercial: Juan Valdez for Colombian Coffee

Remember Juan Valdez?

I may be dating myself here, but does anyone remember the television commercial showcasing the iconic coffee farmer with his burro, proudly proclaiming his Colombian coffee grown high on the mountaintop to be the best? Back in the day, small family-owned, natural shade coffee farms were the backbone of the industry.

Video from tracy80sgirl brings back nostalgic memories for me!

Sun-Grown Coffee Farm

Cheap, sun-grown coffee provides absolutely nothing for migratory birds.
Cheap, sun-grown coffee provides absolutely nothing for migratory birds. | Source

Americans Drink a Lot of Coffee

However, responding to the insatiable demands of the American consumers, industrialized agribusiness has taken over more than 40% of the shade coffee farms in Latin America. Sun-tolerant, chemical-dependent coffee varieties can be grown cheaply, but at the expense of migratory bird habitats and local economies dependent on the natural shade coffee farms. Those toxic, chemically-loaded coffee beans are used in the brand names on grocery store shelves all over the U.S.

Shade-Grown Coffee Forest/Farm

Shade-grown coffee requires no chemical pesticides or fertilizers because of the nutrient-rich soil found in mixed forests.
Shade-grown coffee requires no chemical pesticides or fertilizers because of the nutrient-rich soil found in mixed forests. | Source

The Best Coffee Grows in Shady Mixed Forests

The best and richest organic coffee beans are produced in a natural shade environment. Not too long ago, coffee grew prolifically on mountain tops in random-aged forests in South America. In order for birds to maneuver and hide successfully, they need open spaces within the forest. Those spaces are created when a large variety of trees of different heights and ages are part of the habitat. Birds depend upon those types of forests for food, shelter and protection from predators. Lots of nooks and crannies provide the ideal conditions birds need to survive and elude animals that would make a meal of them.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager is just one of the awesome birds that depend upon shade-grown coffee farms in Latin America.
Summer Tanager is just one of the awesome birds that depend upon shade-grown coffee farms in Latin America. | Source

Loss of Habitat Equals Fewer Backyard Birds

The forests in Mexico, Central America, Nicaragua and Honduras are the destination of millions of migratory songbirds each year. To an alarming extent, they have been cleared, and replaced by huge, uniform-growth ranches and farms. Have you noticed fewer birds in your yard? Loss of habitat equals loss of birds, in the millions! Watching this important video, which was produced by NeotropicalBirds.org, will help you to understand the connection between coffee and our backyard birds, and why your coffee choice will ultimately determine the fate of millions of migratory birds.

Video by www.NeotropicalBirds.org

Comparison of Sun-Grown and Shade-Grown Coffee

 
Sun-Grown Coffee
Shade-Grown Coffee
ADVANTAGES
Cheaply Priced
No Chemicals Are Used Because of the Nutrient-Rich Soil of Mixed Forests
 
 
Provides Biodiversity and Necessary Migratory Bird Habitats
 
 
Healthy for the Planet, Humans and Birds
DISADVANTAGES
Chemical Pesticides and Fertilizers Are Used to Speed Growth and Maximize Crop Size
More Expensive to Produce
 
Provides No Biodiversity
 
 
Migratory Birds Lose Their Essential Habitat, Shelter and Food Sources
 
 
Unhealthy for Planet, Humans and Birds
 

Rat Snakes Love to Hunt for Birds

Rat snakes are just one of the many animals that prey on our migratory song birds.
Rat snakes are just one of the many animals that prey on our migratory song birds. | Source

Wastelands to the Birds

To the birds, the sun-dependent coffee plantations are the equivalent of a massive expanse of concrete. They are wastelands for all the animals, plants and birds who used to live there. The biodiversity has been virtually destroyed. Songbirds have few sheltered places where they can nest and successfully hide from predators—it’s easy ‘pickins’ for feral cats and rat snakes, etc.

Migratory Songbirds Are In a Steep Decline

The alarming decline of the Wood Thrush population is one example of the detrimental effects of cheaply-grown coffee. In the 1960’s their numbers were 13 million strong; now there are fewer than 5 million. I used to hear them every summer. For the last several years none have been present to nest in my woods, or serenade me with their ethereal song. Wood Thrushes are unique in that they harmonize with themselves using 2 sets of vocal chords.

Follow this link to hear their magical song: Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush Populations Are In Decline

Wood Thrushes absolutely need the shade-grown coffee farms in order to increase their numbers.
Wood Thrushes absolutely need the shade-grown coffee farms in order to increase their numbers. | Source

Bad Decisions Adversely Affect Our Environment

Our songbird populations are in a steep descent due to humans and their bad decisions—I’m referring to those at the government level. They know better, but they continue to sanction ill-advised and unhealthy environmental practices, which are both short-sighted and non-planet driven.

Alliance for Zero Extinction

'To date, AZE has identified 595 sites that each represent the last refuges of 794 of the world's most highly threatened species. 78 of these are bird species in Latin America and the Caribbean.'

The American Bird Conservancy is working with 67 biodiversity conservation organizations in a historic effort to restore essential habitats.

There Is Hope!

The American Bird Conservancy has been working with their partners in Latin America to develop a plan to urge ranchers and farmers to grow coffee and cacao that require shade forests. This would boost the local economies by proliferating small, family-owned farms once again. Our amazing Wood Thrushes, as well as so many different songbirds, rely on these farms for their very survival.

Bird-Friendly Choices

Learn more about how to be Bird Friendly:

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/coffee/

Make a Healthier Choice and Save Birds!

Seldom is there a cause where you can make a significant difference immediately. But this is one of those situations. The urgency is real! But this IS NOT something that will take years to produce results.

You can make an immediate difference and a much healthier personal choice by looking for and purchasing 100% Bird-Friendly® Coffee like “Birds and Beans”.

Another great one is “Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC)”. Sure, it’s going to hit your wallet. I won’t lie to you. But consider this, would you consciously choose to exterminate a beautiful songbird every time you drink a cup of coffee, when you could save one instead?

Shade-Grown Farmers Must Meet Strict Control Guidelines

Currently there are shade coffee growers still producing the best and richest-tasting coffee, but they are subject to very strict guidelines. Quality control is necessary for certification as ‘Bird-Friendly’. No pesticides or toxic chemicals of any kind are allowed, and trees must be of different and varying heights as prescribed by the guidelines. Coffee plants are naturally mixed in with indigenous fruit and nut trees to promote biodiversity of the natural habitats.

There are many more rules to which these farms must adhere, and all this comes with a higher price tag. But, the more people choose shade-grown coffee, the sooner competition will naturally drive the price downward. The law of supply and demand will kick in here. It will become more attractive financially to produce shade-grown organic rather than chemical-laced sun-grown coffee.

REMEMBER: Just because the label boasts that it is 'Mountain Grown', that does not mean that it is shade grown. Look for the logo "Bird Friendly" to be absolutely sure.

Now That You Have The Facts, Which Coffee Will You Choose?

  • I Want to Help The Birds, I'm Switching to Shade-Grown Coffee
  • I Already Drink Shade-Grown Coffee
  • I'm Sticking to My Favorite Brand
  • I'll Have to Check Out Prices First
See results without voting

Choose Planet-Healthy Shade-Grown Coffee

It is time we sent the message that the almighty dollar should not be the sole consideration. The importance of birds and animals has long fallen by the wayside in pursuit of the power of big bucks. The lives of our birds literally hang in the balance. You can help restore the biodiversity and therefore the health of our planet. If you don’t, who will? We need to take our planet back; we can no longer leave it in the hands of money-driven politicians and big business interests.

Only One Grocery Chain So Far

I was able to find only one grocery store chain that sells shade-grown bird-friendly coffee at the time of this writing: www.wholefoodsmarket.com.

But there are quite a few online sources, and I have listed only some of them in the links box to the right.

Hopefully, as consumers realize the importance of making a better coffee choice, grocery store managers and owners will begin to stock them.

In the meantime, you can taste test several, decide which is your favorite, then go to your local grocery store and ask that they stock that particular brand! If they want to keep your business, it is in their best interest to accommodate their customers.

*Note: I added this information in response to an excellent question from hubber 'SandCastles'.

Grandma Pearl a/k/a/ Connie Smith
Grandma Pearl a/k/a/ Connie Smith

'You can create yard and garden habitats that Help Birds Survive and Thrive'

Read more by visiting grandmapearl.hubpages.com; and

Join me at Rusticbarnwoodbirdhouses to discover more about wildlife in general, and birds in particular.

More by this Author


Have You Seen Fewer Migratory Birds? 24 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

What great information my friend. This is something that never dawned on me. Now, I have to admit I do not drink coffee, but for the millions that do, this is incredibly important. Thank you for raising awareness, Connie. Well done!

bill


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Billy, I never got into the coffee-drinking habit either, but I wanted to get the word out for the sake of the birds. Thank you my friend for your encouraging comments. I hope you have an awesome weekend ;) Connie


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

Awesome hub, Connie. :) Interesting to discover how many other people don't drink coffee. Add me to the list. Of course I'd also buy the bird-friendly variety for when friends come to visit. Voted up +++.


raguett profile image

raguett 3 years ago

Thank u for this greatand very informed hub. i myself cut coffee from my daily life years ago. i will pass this hub along to all my fellow coffee drinkers which is everyone i know...:)


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

i do have the coffee drinking habit and I appreciate what you have written.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

Pearl, the information you provide in this hub brings awareness to an area I did not even know is an issue to our environment. I will definitely check the labels when I buy coffee from now on. The video you share with us provides excellent information. Prior to this it never dawned on me that the coffee we drink has a direct effect on the bird population.

BTW, is it my imagination or does the Wood Thrush in the link only have one leg?

Thanx for the info, Pearl. I will take this information to heart when I shop for coffee. Shoot, I read labels all the time, checking for ingredients I don't want to ingest. I'll add "bird friendly" to the list of what I do want to ingest.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

LongTimeMother, thank you! I'm glad you found this article interesting, and even better yet, you will be buying bird-friendly coffee for your coffee-drinking friends! My mission is to help spread the word about all the perils facing our feathered friends. I'm so pleased you stopped by, and thank you so much for the votes--they are very much appreciated ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

raguett, thank you so much for sharing this article with the coffee drinkers you know. It is such an important issue for our little aviators. I'm very happy you stopped by ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Carol! It is amazing what footprints we leave on the world around us, isn't it? I imagine that this is new information to the majority of the population, but it is so very important. Thanks so much for your visit, and comment my friend ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

bravewarrior, I'm very happy you stopped by today. I know that you have such an awareness of the environment and all the bad stuff that is out there. But, this is info that doesn't seem to make its way to the general public. Yet it is absolutely vital to migratory birds. I suspect big business and government interests don't want this to see the light of day--it would hurt their pocket books big time!

About the Wood Thrush, I thought the same thing at first; but after studying the picture I could tell that its right foot is holding on to the slender upward branch that is in front of him.

Reading labels is a habit I have acquired like you. Unfortunately, there is no requirement to disclose what pesticides and fertilizers are used on any product. I think that is a gross oversight, don't you?! We all have a right to know. I'm absolutely certain we would wipe out cancer and many other human and animal diseases if the toxins were no longer present in our environment ;) Pearl


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

Oh, Pearl you are so right regarding the toxins and cancer. No wonder there's no cure; we keep increasing the toxins!

BTW, I've shared this on FB and Twitter. The buying public needs to be aware of this issue and do something about it.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

bravewarrior, Thank you so much for sharing this on Facebook and Twitter. I hope it goes viral! The public should absolutely be made aware of this predicament our birds face. We have to be their voice, don't we!

Thanks my awesome friend ;) Pearl


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

Great hub - informative and quite interesting. I do drink coffee and I was aware of few of the things you mention here but I am glad I had the chance to read your article. Voted and shared!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Another wonderful hub Pearl. I never knew any of this and even though I personally do not drink coffee such an important lesson to learn. Voted up and shared Pearl.

Enjoy your day.

Eddy.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Mike! Thank you for your supportive comments. I'm pleased that you are sharing this very important issue with others. It's so easy to help our migratory birds, and ourselves at the same time. I'm very glad you stopped by to visit ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Dear Eddy, thank you my special friend for sharing this essential information with your followers. The birds are so very dear to me as you know; they deserve better than the fate big business has dished out for them. I hope that we can find a way to turn this tragedy around, and very soon!

I'm so pleased to see you, as always--have an awesome day ;) Pearl


CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I had no idea. I've been cutting way back on coffee in hopes that some day I will not drink it at all.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

CraftytotheCore, I'm very pleased you found this important information useful. And congratulations on cutting back on coffee! I never got into the habit, but I know a lot of people who love it. Hopefully the importance of this issue reaches a lot of people so we can begin to get our migratory bird populations back.

I'm so glad you stopped by for a visit ;) Pearl


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I did not know about this coffee. I only was aware of Fair Trade coffee. I think I will get the coffee that you speak about now. I have noticed a lot less birds at the lake this year than last year. Thanks for doing this story. Voted up, awesome, and sharing.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Deb, The choice of coffee is such an important issue, and it is virtually unknown. I'm so glad you are sharing this with your many followers. The more we get the word out, the better chance our songbirds have of making a comeback. I don't drink coffee myself, but I am told that the Bird Friendly brands are very good.

Thanks for the votes, my friend ;) Connie


SandCastles 3 years ago

Do they sell the shade grown coffee in grocery stores?


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi SandCastles, Unfortunately, as far as I know the only grocery store chain that sells shade grown bird-friendly coffee is www.wholefoodsmarket.com. However, there are several places online where you can order ground, shade-grown coffee. One is www.amazon.com/grocery, and another is www.groundsforchange.com, which sells it in bulk. I hope that helps. One way to get this product into local grocery stores is to find out which one you like the best, and then ask your grocery store manager to stock it. Enlist your friends to do the same, and soon it should be on the store shelves.

Thanks for this great question, and I hope you have success in being the first to get it into your local grocery store!

That would be awesome ;) Pearl


BNadyn profile image

BNadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

Great hub, so useful and informative especially for coffee lovers! I have just recently taken up drinking coffee this year and I have been buying organic but now I'll be sure to look for shade-grown coffee. This is important information to know so thanks for discussing it. :)


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

BNadyn, I'm so pleased you found this useful, and more importantly, that you know how important it is to go with the shade-grown coffee. You have made my day for sure! Thanks so much for the visit and the great comment ;) Pearl

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