Bird-friendly coffee? What’s that?

I never even heard of bird-friendly coffee before, and my first thought was that must be what those early-morning noise makers in the trees around my house must be drinking. But no! GrrlScientist explains it all.

“Over recent decades, most of the shade coffee in Latin America has been converted to intensively managed row monocultures devoid of trees or other vegetation,” Amanda Rodewald, a co-author of the study who is the Garvin Professor and senior director of the Center for Avian Population Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said in a statement. “As a result, many birds cannot find suitable habitats and are left with poor prospects of surviving migration and successfully breeding.”

Today, most coffee sold is sun-grown under little or no shade because sun makes coffee bushes grow faster and produce more coffee. This loss of tropical forest biodiversity to a row monoculture harms resident rainforest birds along with their migratory cousins so they all are disappearing along with their rainforest homes. This simple connection between habitat loss, pesticides and fertilizer pollution to intensive coffee farming methods was the impetus for Smithsonian conservation scientists to create the strictest agricultural certification criteria for coffee: their Bird-Friendly certification requires that coffee is organic and that it meets strict requirements for both mature canopy cover and the type of forest in which the coffee is grown. Bird-Friendly coffees are guaranteed to support bird habitat, in addition to fair and stable prices for coffee producers, healthy environments for local communities, and equal access to markets for Bird-Friendly coffee producers.

Uh-oh. When the birder in our house finds out, this is going to be the only kind of coffee we will be allowed to purchase.

(By the way, GrrlScientist visited us here in Morris several years ago, before Mary was bitten by the birding bug. The two of them would have even more to talk about today.)


  1. PaulBC says

    those early-morning noise makers in the trees around my house

    That’s the bird-friendly dexedrine. I’ve noticed it too. Spring is here, or maybe just a new supplier.

  2. pierremasson says

    I wonder if there’s a certification being considered for bird-friendly corn or almonds?

  3. robro says

    My gardener partner is a big advocate for native plants in part because they provide shelter and food for birds. The birds appear to approve because we’ve grown from a handful of birds and a couple of types to many.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    In general, hedgerows and other features of “traditional” farm country here in Europe are good for birds.
    So are traditional, simple ditches as the edges provide refugia for diverse plant and insect life.
    -My sister and her husband are bird enthusiasts and have spotted the first sign of spring; a male songbird who used to welcome their feeding sorties has become very protective of his domain- any intruders are met with idignant attempts to shout them away.
    Tengmalm’s owl aka the boreal owl has been ho-ho-ing for some time but I do not count that as a “spring” sign as their mating season starts well before spring.
    I have been feeding birds outside my place of work thorought the winter, I have realised the smaller birds only get to eat if you first provide for the bigger ones (there is nowhere to set up a bird feeder). The pigeons recognise me from afar and it is fun to be greeted by them.

  5. robro says

    brigerjohansson — Generally the small birds (wren, tufted titmouse, dark-eyed junco, sparrows of various sorts) get along well with the bigger birds (mourning dove, scrub jay, quail) in our backyard. They feed together on the ground or in feeders as happily as they do with their own species, though some of the adult juncos can be surprisingly aggressive. The only “problem” bird we have is the ringneck pigeons, but they don’t come around so much now.

    My partner is convinced the birds come to the sliding glass door to look for her when the seed supply gets low

  6. says

    This applies to much more than birds. There are serious concerns about the wild pollinating insects, at least in part due to monocrops.

  7. unclefrogy says

    speaking of pollinating insects, I was amazed and shocked when I learned that some bee keepers keep atheir bees on a flat bed trailer or truck and move them around to who ever pays them for the service
    I have now a pack of semi wild stray cats living in my yard and thus not so many birds as there were. They do not like hanging out above a bunch of bird eaters I guess
    I will have to look out for bird safe coffee and what other food stuffs it might get applied to.
    cash flow is the big driver I guess I would think that a well integrated system would be more efficient but maybe not yield as high returns in the short term.

  8. chigau (違う) says

    yes, ice swimmer
    I am more concerned about tea.
    srsly, I could never drink coffee ever again with a meh
    tea however, you will have a fight on your hands

  9. kenbakermn says

    I’d never heard of bird-friendly coffee before but it sounds like a great idea. Did a quick search and found only one place in the Twin Cities that has it. Can I make a plug? Sparrow Cafe near Lake Harriet in South Minneapolis, a charming little joint with good espresso and treats. By the way I have no connection to that business other than as an occasional customer, but I love charming little espresso joints.

  10. jrkrideau says

    I thought that there was a lot of resistance to this type of coffee growing years ago. There are a lot of reasons that one wants shade for coffee plants. nothing like importing modern agricultural practices without]ut an appreciation of the ecology. Has Haiti about the pigs.

  11. kaleberg says

    In Ethiopia, where coffee was first brewed, coffee is an under story tree. It likes a bit of shade. You can say anything you want about the wretched situation in Ethiopia nowadays, but they have seriously good coffee there.

  12. zentrout says

    Velasquez Family Coffee. Family farm in Honduras, family roasters in St. Paul. I knew Kathy from Land Stewardship Project. The only place for our beans and ground coffee, they deliver within range, ship anywhere. Delicious