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IMBD 2001 Art
Art copyright Terry Isaac by arrangement with Mill Pond Press, Inc.

Shade-Grown Coffee

Coffee's Connection to Birds

On traditional coffee plantations, coffee shrubs are grown under a canopy of trees, the layers and diversity of which offer shelter and food for wild birds. In many parts of the neotropics, shade-grown coffee farms are the only forest-like habitat remaining.

Unfortunately, due to the increasing demand for coffee worldwide, many of the traditional plantations have been converted to high-yield, sun-tolerant coffee plantations, which are devoid of trees.

Loss of the canopy means loss of habitat for migratory and resident birds; studies have found that the diversity of birds and other wildlife plummets when coffee plantations are converted from shade to sun.

There are other ill effects: sun-grown coffee, while yielding higher short-term output, requires higher levels of fertilization and plant replacement, suffers increased risk of failure due to drought, leads to soil damage, and means the destruction of the forest -- a long-term resource for local peoples.

Coffee Theme for IMBD

The theme for IMBD 2001 was helping people make the "Coffee Connection." Consumer awareness is key to returning shade-grown coffee to the shelves and maintaining trees in the tropics. IMBD -- in any year -- is a perfect venue for raising awareness. Bird walk breakfasts, lectures, festivals, and other IMBD activities are an excellent opportunity to share information about the benefits of shade-grown coffee and for encouraging increased supply and demand.

The materials available for IMBD can help you spread the word about coffee. Via an agreement with Counter Culture Coffee (distributors of Sanctuary Shade-Grown Coffee), the IMBD Products Catalog offers supplies of coffee, as well as associated educational displays and materials. Our goal is to give people a taste of at least one of the brands available (there are many, many options in addition to Sanctuary), and the tools for them to either find or ask for shade-grown coffee in local stores.

Other IMBD promotional and educational products -- coffee cups, t-shirt, kids' magazine -- also focus on shade-grown coffee.

Contact us if there are other ways we can help you promote the Coffee Connection!

Coffee Photo Gallery

Visit our Photo Gallery to see what we're talking about...and for a source of copyright-free digital images.

Coffee Glossary

Learn the lingo with this Glossary. (Fact sheets are in .PDF format; if you lack software to view them, you can download Free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.)

Glossary is provided by the American Birding Association (ABA), who has long been involved promoting shade-grown coffee. It should be helpful for those wishing to understand some of the regular terms used in the growing discussions over birds and shade-grown coffee. A version of this glossary originally appeared in the February 2000 issue of Birding, the ABA’s bimonthly magazine. It was assembled by David L. Gorsline.

Coffee Contacts

Many conservation organizations, coffee companies, and individuals are interested in promoting shade-grown coffee.

Want an overview of sources? Check out The Coffee Contact

Simply looking for a source of shade coffee? Try lists by:
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Rainforest Alliance
The Songbird Foundation
Seattle Audubon Society
Atlanta Audubon Society

Some good spots:
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center's Coffee Corner
Article by the Specialty Coffee Association of America
Rainforest Alliance - Conservation Agriculture Program
The Songbird Foundation's Home Page
Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign
American Birding Association's Coffee Pages
Conservation International's Coffee Pages
Atlanta Audubon Society's Coffee Pages

For questions about this page, contact Jennifer Wheeler at

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Revised May 1, 2003