Put the kettle on to help migratory birds
An easy way to help swifts and other migrant birds from the comfort of your kitchen.
Now that spring migration is well underway, we hope you’ve been happily spotting some familiar feathered friends in your garden, local parks and reserves. Swifts, house martins, flycatchers and most warblers migrate, and are now returning to our shores.
There’s little better than taking a quiet moment to watch garden visitors while you wait for the kettle to boil. But did you know you can help nature with three easy kitchen swaps? Come with us and find out how tea, coffee and chocolate can help wildlife here and abroad. There’s never been a better time for a cuppa!
The perfect bird-friendly brew
Strong and milky? Black with one sugar? However you drink yours, you can support migratory birds simply by enjoying a delicious cup of coffee. That's because our partner and coffee roaster, Bird & Wild, produces Fairtrade Organic coffee that’s grown in harmony with nature.
Grown in tropical mountain forests, Bird & Wild’s coffee beans are grown in the shade, beneath a rainforest canopy. By growing coffee underneath a diverse tree canopy, the coffee farmers maintain a rich habitat for birds and wildlife, including many migratory birds.
Wild coffee is a shade-tolerant plant, but it grows rapidly when grown in full sun, increasing yield and profits. That's why many coffee plantations are cleared, resulting in monocultures with little wildlife, soil degradation and a high use of pesticides and fertilisers.
Under the shade of the forest canopy above, Bird & Wild coffee grows slowly, developing complex flavours as it ripens. Retaining the forest canopy trees also preserves a much more diverse habitat for many birds and insects.
A recent survey found 184 bird species (including 46 migratory birds) within a single Bird & Wild shade-grown coffee site in Mexico. In comparison, sun-grown coffee monocultures typically support only 6-12 species of bird.
So, whether you like ground or instant coffee, why not give Bird & Wild coffee a try, and help migratory birds with every sip?
Planning on visiting an RSPB nature reserve? Our shops stock Bird & Wild coffee too! Find your nearest shop and pop in for a visit.
A caffeine-free cup for nature
For the caffeine abstainers, how about a refreshing cup of bird-friendly peppermint tea? Summerdown's Black Mitcham peppermint tea is made from leaves grown sustainably on their family farm in Hampshire, UK.
Summerdown is a Fair to Nature farm, maintaining a variety of habitats for wildlife, including resident and migratory birds. The farm team sows wildflowers around the edges of their fields to encourage pollinators and provide seed-rich habitats as a source of food for farmland birds.
Run by the RSPB, Fair to Nature is the only UK certification scheme with a focus on increasing biodiversity and restoring the balance with nature in UK farming.
Summerdown’s peppermint leaves are dried and infused with the farm’s own barrel-aged peppermint oil to create a fragrant, bold flavour with every biodegradable teabag.
How about an ethical sweet treat?
It wouldn’t be an indulgent cup of coffee without something sweet to enjoy too, and our Gola Rainforest chocolate is just the ticket. Handmade in Cornwall, from cocoa beans grown sustainably in Sierra Leone, this chocolate supports wildlife and local communities. Each bar is forest-friendly, palm oil-free and pays farmers a fair price for their beans.
The RSPB has been working with partners and communities in Sierra Leone for over 30 years, helping to develop sustainable management models for the Gola Rainforest.
The cocoa beans themselves are grown under the shade of native trees, in land surrounding the Gola Rainforest National Park. Without the need to clear land to grow cocoa, the farms are biodiverse hotspots, supporting many endangered animals, such as chimpanzees, forest elephants and pygmy hippos. The forest also provides habitat and food for over 300 resident and migratory bird species, and 600 butterfly species.
The chocolate itself is made with just three ingredients – cocoa beans, unrefined sugar and organic milk (milk chocolate only). It's rich and fruity, and all the more satisfying for its support of nature and local people. Plus, all profits from the sale of this chocolate are reinvested into the Gola Rainforest Cocoa Programme.
Time to put your feet up
Bird migration is one of the wonders of the natural world, with many species around the globe flying thousands of miles between seasons to find safe places to feed, rest and raise young.
In the UK, around half of our bird species migrate each year – some taking short trips to neighbouring countries, with others flying long-haul to Africa or the Southern Oceans. Come spring, we see a surge in returning birds, as many species return to UK shores for the summer to raise young.
Swifts are a true long-distance migrant, with some UK-breeding birds flying over 6,000 miles to south-eastern Africa and then the same distance back again. Sleeping, eating and even mating on the wing, this incredible bird is now struggling in the UK; we have lost more than half our breeding swifts since 1995. Loss of nest sites in buildings due to renovation works, and lack of alternative homes in new buildings is at least part of the problem. As a result of this decline in numbers, swifts are now on the Red List of birds of highest conservation concern in the UK, which is why installing swift nest boxes is so important.
Cuckoos, too are on the Red List, and conservation work is ongoing to understand the causes of their population decline. Cuckoos are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other birds. While their chicks are raised by host birds, adult cuckoos are free to leave the UK much earlier, in June. Young cuckoos must find their own way to Africa later in the summer, without any assistance.
The world of bird migration is truly fascinating. If you’d like to learn more, browse our bird bookshelf. Not sure where to start? We’d recommend the brand new A World on The Wing, or perhaps Swifts in a Tower (a classic), or why not give The Meaning of Birds a go.