Coffee for the Birds: Connecting Bird-Watchers With Shade-Grown Coffee
Since 1970, bird populations in North America have declined by approximately 2.9 billion birds, a loss of more than one in four birds. Factors in this decline include habitat loss and ecosystem degradation from human actions on the landscape.
At the same time, enthusiasm for bird-watching has grown, with more than 45 million recreational participants in the United States alone. Now, researchers are looking into how to mobilize these bird enthusiasts to help limit bird population declines.
Enter bird-friendly coffee.
Bird-friendly coffee is certified organic, but its impact on the environment goes further than that: it is cultivated specifically to maintain bird habitats instead of clearing vegetation that birds and other animals rely on.
Researchers from Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment, Cornell University, and Columbia University explored whether bird-friendly coffee is on the radar of bird-watchers: are they drinking it and, if not, why not? The study results were published in the journal People and Nature.
“We know bird-watchers benefit from having healthy, diverse populations of birds, and they tend to be conservation-minded folks,” explained Assistant Professor Ashley Dayer of Virginia Tech’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. “My colleagues and I wanted to dig into this key audience to determine their interest in bird-friendly coffee.”
Bird-friendly coffee is shade-grown, meaning that it is grown and harvested under the canopy of mature trees, a process that parallels how coffee was historically grown. But with most farms in Central and South America and the Caribbean converting to full-sun operations, crucial bird habitats for migrating and resident bird species are being lost.