Tag Archives: coffee plantations

Your Morning Cup of Joe and Our Fine Feathered Friends

Americans love their coffee. In fact, 45% of all coffee grown ends up being consumed by Americans. Strangely enough, though, we aren’t the highest consumer of coffee; that honor goes to Denmark, which drinks about three times more per person than the United States. That translates into 12 kilograms of coffee, or (if I’ve managed the calculation right!) slightly more than 26 pounds of coffee. Americans drink about nine pounds, making us about 27th in the world for coffee consumption. Based on how much coffee my husband drinks, that sounds about right!

I imagine right about now, you are wondering just what all these interesting facts about coffee have to do with birds. Well, coffee actually has to do a lot with birds, especially seasonal migrants. When coffee was first discovered in the tropical forests of Africa, it was a  shade-loving plant, growing under large canopy trees. Subsequently, coffee spread to other tropical forested areas of the world, including our hemisphere. These forests provide migratory and resident birds a wonderful place to live. The trees, as we all know, also help the soil to remain healthy, control watersheds, and  preserve biodiversity. But as the popularity of coffee grew, new sun-loving coffee plants were developed that had an increased yield. However, the sun-grown coffee plants had some negative effects on the environment. These plants require full sun, so the canopy trees were cut down to create growing fields. The plants also need chemical fertilizers and pesticides that combine with rain runoff to endanger humans and wildlife. And finally, these sun-grown coffee plantations have about 90% less bird species in them compared to shade-grown coffee plantations. In the two pictures, you can really see the difference in how shade-grown and sun-grown coffee are being produced.

So, that cup of coffee you drink has a big impact on the birds in our neighborhood; so many of the birds we see in our ravines over-winter or migrate through shade-grown coffee plantations in Latin America. Here’s a list of  these birds that have been sighted in Glen Echo Ravine (and the list below constitutes 52% of all such migratory birds, so it’s quite a lot):

  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  • Traill’s (Willow and Alder) Flycatcher
  • Least Flycatcher
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Wood Thrush
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • American Redstart
  • Ovenbird
  • Kentucky Warblers
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Baltimore Oriole

So what can you do to help? Spread the word and simply buy certified shade-grown coffee (or certified organic which is also shade-grown). It is available in many stores around Columbus as well as on-line. Some stores that Pete and I shop at that have shade-grown/organic coffee are the Clintonville Community Market, Giant Eagle, Global Gallery and Starbucks. I’m sure there are other stores as well that we just don’t know about; please let us know of any to add to our list.

And finally, shade-grown coffees will also likely be fair-trade, which helps promote healthier working conditions and greater economic incentives for the growers. And some of the stores have coffee that is even carbon neutral. Even better! Buying these kinds of coffees not only benefit our feathered friends, but all of those who depend on the rain forest as a place to live and work. So it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Until next time.