Morning Coffee with the Birds.. Or For Them

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Often, when talking conservation, we focus on what we can do to help our feathered friends. On the other hand, what can they do for us?
Ecosystem services can be described as the various benefits humans gain freely from the natural environment when ecosystems are functioning properly. There are now farms in Costa Rica's central region that have realized the service that birds can provide them when it comes to growing coffee! How can that be?
La broca is a coffee borer beetle, considered a plague in the coffee-growing industry and responsible for millions in lost crops.  It is no secret that when growing a monoculture, or a single crop, pest control becomes a large problem. So how are some farmers getting away with not using harmful chemicals? The answer is birds. By converting coffee farms to shade-grown coffee, and putting up trees amongst the crops, bird habitat is created. The birds that then come to the farms offer a free form of pest control, by picking off the beetles before they can cause harm. Migratory, insectivorous birds that we get to see move through our region such as the Blackburnian Warbler have a great service to offer farmers.

Blackburnian Warbler
Some studies have shown that a single bird can save from 23 to 65 pounds of coffee annually.

Edgar and his son Richard walk through their family coffee farm, which has 80% shade cover. Photo by Jeffrey Arguedas.
You can read more about the success of shade-grown coffee on the Fernandez farm in Costa Rica here. 
Even better, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology lists drinking shade-grown coffee as one of the ways we can help #BringBirdsBack. So many birds overwinter in coffee plantations, it's a win-win for farmers and birds. There are so many opportunities for us to have symbiotic relationships with our natural world. You can check here for where to buy Bird-Friendly Coffee.
This same ecosystem service can also be helpful in vineyards, providing habitat and keeping the grapes safe from pests simultaneously. Birds are helping us have coffee and vino! By supporting appropriate sources of beverages we consume every day, we are helping birds!  It is truly that simple, and these types of symbiotic relationships can help our world and it's species (ourselves included) thrive.

Bottoms up!

Warmly, 


Heather 

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