Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Coffee With Birds In Mind

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Sustainability, Nature, Society

Ed Hessler

I was delighted to read Gustave Axelson's essay in the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's "All About Birds." It is about coffee labels and wintering warblers in Mexico, Central and South America where warblers "spend five months of the year in and around shade coffee plantations...but only if they can find them." The premium plantations from a bird's point-of-view are those that are grown under a "natural forest canopy."

This is something most labels don't tell us but from which many of us jump to this conclusion when we see the various icons on the bags we purchase, thinking that all of them are equal. Axelson lists common labels and discusses their benefits and shortcomings for winter bird habitat. The most trustworthy label has a Bird Friendly icon which means that they have been "certified by...the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center." The label "shade grown" doesn't tell us much, if anything.

It also turns out that there are more bird friendly coffees than we know.  The problem is in the packaging.  "The need to make room on  packaging for a separate label that appeals to a relatively small--and silent--minority birders" has not been persuasive. 

So birders need to step up to the counters ask retailers to "stock  Bird Friendly coffee, and by buying it. ... More than 46 million Americans say they watch birds, and half of all Americans drink coffee." What is needed is a commitment "to drinking Bird Friendly coffee. There would be a response from retailers and producers.

Axelson's essay reports on a study done of one warbler, the wood thrush. They now have more breeding habitat in the north than they did previously but it was found that "Wood Thrush declines matched deforestation trends in Nicaragua, where forest cover has dropped 30 percent in just the past two decades."

Read all about the labels with links to relevant information in Axelson's essay which includes a Bird Friendly locator...for the U.S., Canada, U.K., Czech Republic and Japan.

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