To escape the cold during the winter months of North America, numerous varieties birds migrate to Latin and South America, finding shelter in shade-grown coffee plantations. Include in this immense journey are various warblers, tanagers, vireos, flycatchers, hawks and orioles among others.
Due to continual habitat loss, these birds rely on the forest-like structures of traditionally grown, shade-covered coffee. With this method, growers foster coffee plants along with other native foliage. These plants have various roles within the plantation ecosystem. Some such as Inga trees fix nitrogen, a vital plant nutrient, into the soil, and provide habitats for other organisms. Non-coffee plants can also provide benefits to the growers. Trees can be a source of firewood, and compost is a natural fertilizer.
Many of these benefits are not found in new methods of sun-grown coffee. These plantations focus only on growing coffee plants and require chemical additives such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Because of the lack of biological diversity, these plantations are not suitable to harbor migrating birds.
The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, in addition to providing articles and slide shows of the information above, has created a certified seal for “Bird Friendly Coffee”. They have much, much more information on the subject, along with coffee vendors and retailers on their website. Go check it out- it’s pretty interesting and the topic for the next piece in the Bird Series.