Lecture Takes Flight

Each year birds travel long distances to find better living environments.Naturalists now believe people can help make that transition a little easier.

On Thursday, Feb. 23, there was a lecture on Bird migration titled, “Living on the Wind: The Miracle of Bird Migration.” The speaker of this lecture was naturalist and author Scott Weidensaul. He has published more than two-dozen natural history books, including Pulitzer Prize-nominated “Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds.”

“New research shows some birds are traveling as much as 47,000 miles a year,” said Weidensaul. “While the populations of many migratory birds are in drastic decline, there are many things we can do to save them.”

The migration of birds is something that is generally overlooked, but people can do a number of things to preserve it and help the ecosystem such as gardening with birds in mind or drinking bird friendly coffee, Weidensaul said.

“Bird Friendly” coffee was created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC). SMBC has a set of guidelines for 100 percent organic Bird Friendly coffee that all distributers must follow. These guidelines say all certified coffee must grow under a minimum of 40 percent shade by farmers without pesticides or other chemicals to helps preserve the habitats of birds and biodiversity.

According to Ken Kaufman of Bird Watchers Digest, a movement began in the U.S. 40 years ago to convert shade coffee farms to sun coffee.

“Sun coffee wasn’t as healthy for local farm workers and it didn’t have the same rich flavor,” said Kaufman. “But it could be produced in mass quantities, producing larger profits for big factory farms.”

Songbirds live in the canopies of trees in forests and coffee plantations.The habitats of numerous songbirds have been destroyed in recent years. This is due to the removal of trees to provide sunlight for the new strain of coffee, said naturalist Bill Wilson.

Bird Friendly coffee protects this area by leaving the trees and the canopies intact and limiting the amount of deforestation, he said.

In 2008, Wilson and Weidensaul co-founded their own company for Bird Friendly coffee called Birds and Beans.  Wilson said Birds and Beans’ mission is to make it easier for consumers to purchase Bird Friendly coffee in New England, and locally in the Mohonk Mountain area.

Kaufman and Dr. Bridget Stutchbury joined Wilson and Weidensaul and Wilson said sales have “doubled year-on-year since [their] launch.”

Although this seems like a small step toward helping bird migration, Stutchbury said the company feels they are making a great impact.

“The most important single step an individual can do to help stop migratory songbird population loss is to always buy certified Bird Friendly coffee,” Stutchbury, author of ‘Silence of the Songbirds’ and professor at York University, said.