Bird Research and Shade-Grown Coffee

Coffee has an extremely important role in
the landscape. Socially, it’s one of the most important
crops in a large swathe of the Andes of Colombia and it is utilized by a large number of bird
species. Migratory birds present a conservation challenge. We’ve often thought of them as, sort of,
our birds, right? We see them in the breeding season, when they’re
nesting and raising their young, but in fact they spend most of the rest of the year somewhere
else. We can do all the conservation work we want,
but if we don’t protect sites of migration as well, the populations aren’t going to
recover and they’ll carry on declining as we’ve seen. One of the main focuses today, is on full
life cycle biology. Trying to understand what migratory birds
need at all the different stages of their life cycle. They’re breeding up in North America, they’re
wintering down here, their populations are connected. You can’t take care of and really be sure
that we’re meeting the needs of a species without, thinking about, all of the places
it is across the year. They need energy to migrate and they lay down
this energy in the form of fat deposits. So they need to find these high quality habitats,
because you can’t lay down large fat deposits if you’re in a poor habitat. We’re going to use mist netting in order
to catch the birds, look at their actual physical condition, see whether they’re accumulating
these fat reserves. We know it’s good to see birds…using a
particular habitat or location, but we can’t…say that it’s suitable for them…unless we
know that they’re gaining weight and surviving. So practices that farmers are using, on the
land, can have profound impacts on the populations. The ideal coffee landscape is not only the
coffee plantations, but that we’re going to have natural elements, areas of forest,
mixed within that landscape. The shade coffee plantations can provide really
good foraging habitat for migratory and resident birds when they have these trees, because
there are a lot of insects in the trees, and fruits, and nectar sources. Unfortunately, much of the shade coffee has
been converted to sun coffee where the trees are removed. When we lose those trees, we’re loosing
the services that trees provide. Preventing erosion and landslides, protecting
water, adding nutrients to the farm, storing carbon, and of course, we’re also loosing
the habitat for birds and for other species. If we don’t have natural habitat within
the coffee landscape, we don’t have these bird species. This morning is a great example, because we
were out here in a farm where there are over story trees. There are shrubs. but there are trees. There are shrubs. There are also other crops that people are
eating and that rich mix, along with some over story trees provided habitat for a large
number of migrants. We heard, Tennessee warblers and Blackburnian,
and Summer tanagers, Black-and-white warbler, all of these different species were here. And the more we can try to provide incentives
to farmers by supporting those kinds of practices, we’re both contributing to bird conservation,
but also to supporting families and communities.

6 thoughts on “Bird Research and Shade-Grown Coffee

  1. Okay, what is the most commonly available shade grown coffee? Preferably also available in K-Cups. Definitely switching after watching this!

  2. I am so happy with our shade grown coffee farm, it feels good . Very nice video, well done!

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