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Arabica Or Robusta? Birds Love Eating Coffee Beans And Have Preference, Study Says

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Birds love eating coffee beans, a new study from India has found. According to the researchers, birds also have a preference among different types of coffee beans available, especially whether it's arabica or robusta coffee beans. 

Coffee Beans For Birds

A group of researchers from Princeton University, the Wildlife Conversation Society, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied the different types of birds living on arabica and robusta coffee plantations near India's mountainous Western Ghats region. Thanks to the shade-grown coffee, the plantations welcome a variety of birds and wildlife.

The researchers found 204 different types of birds on the arabica and robusta coffee plantations, including the Alexandrine parakeet, the Nigiri wood pigeon, the Bareheaded bulbul, and the Pycnonotus priocephalus.

"The plantations saw other animal species like butterflies and amphibians -- all which love their coffee beans," said the lead study author, Dr. Krithi Karanth.

Previous studies have shown that arabica coffee can offer substantial levels of biodiversity. However, coffee production has recently been shifting towards robusta coffee, which uses a full-sun system and can impact forest wildlife. 

Birds' Coffee Preference

Do birds prefer arabica or robusta coffee beans? The researchers found that most of the birds prefer eating arabica coffee beans over robusta coffee beans. Still, it does not matter much which bean is grown.

"Some birds do better with arabica than robusta, but overall, they're both good for wildlife," said Karanth.

Farming practices have contributed to this preference by the birds. Based on the study, robusta farmers used 19 percent of pesticides compared to 75 percent of pesticides used by arabica farmers, which gave room for diversity in birds.

"Reduced pesticide use in robusta farms could lead to increased food resources for insectivore populations," the researchers wrote in the study.

The study also revealed that arabica coffee beans make up 60 percent of global production, while robusta coffee beans make up 40 percent of global production.

From from 1950 to 2015, robusta coffee increased by 840 percent, while arabica coffee increased by 327 percent.

"An encouraging result of the study is that coffee production in the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot, can be a win-win for birds and farmers," said another lead author, Charlotte Chang from Princeton University. 

Currently, India is the world's sixth largest coffee producer in the world, according to the study which is published in the journal Scientific Reports. Dr. Karanth says this is because a majority of the coffee that's grown in India is consumed there.

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