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Caffeinate your birding habits | Bird friendly coffee can help you see more birds

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

If you do not believe me, I do not blame you. But it is not just a flashy headline. Buying the right coffee helps you and birds. Period.


Is putting a period after the word period necessary? These are the weird questions that pop up while writing these articles. But this is not a writing site; it is a bird site. On to the birds!

Close-up of a Wilson's Warbler
A bird that benefits from Bird Friendly coffee, the Wilson's Warbler!

First, if you like our weird writing styles, please join our growing flock!

In full disclosure, the flocking crew does not drink much coffee and only began drinking coffee during the pandemic of 2020 (though we dabbled during a focus-intensive hummingbird banding training). However, it was during this time that we sampled and fell in love with Bird Friendly coffee. Now, it is all we purchase and gift to others. We have tried a variety of coffees from Wood Warbler Coffee (we are dabbling in new brands also), but below, we will present a variety of options to choose from.


As you will read below, the biggest problem with Bird Friendly coffee is awareness. So please, share the word about the benefits of better coffee! Share this article, buy coffee for friends and family, and do whatever you can to help!


Jump Ahead


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Quick Index of the Best Bird Friendly Coffee

Flavor

Roast

Acidity

Link

Mellow | Cocoa | Roasted Nuts

Medium

Medium

Smooth | Dark Chocolate | Cherry

Light-Med

Low

Bold | Chocolate | Smokey Finish

Med-Dark

Low

Smooth | Full | Fruity

Med-Dark

Low

Fruity | Caramel | Chocolate

Medium

Low


What is Bird Friendly coffee?

A Bird Friendly coffee designation certifies that the chosen coffee was grown in a way to conserve habitat for birds, especially migratory birds, and other organisms. A Bird Friendly designation ensures a polyculture of plant life. This means there are a variety of native trees and other plants distributed within the growth area. A monoculture of coffee trees would only include coffee trees. A designation also ensures that a variety of habitat structure (tree and shrub height) is included. The certification provides the farmers with a premium for their coffee, helping create a mutually beneficial tradeoff for birds, producers, and consumers. A major piece of Bird Friendly coffee is its shade-grown component. Bird Friendly coffee must have a canopy layer of native "backbone" tree species of >12 meters! This shade-grown element plays a major role in supporting bird populations and improving the taste of your coffee. Keep reading to learn more!


Who certifies a Bird Friendly coffee farm?

Bird Friendly coffees are certified by third-party inspectors using the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center standards. This certification ensures that the coffee is 100% shade-grown, 100% organic, and 100% pure, meaning no dilution of the certified product.


How can I tell if coffee is Bird Friendly?

Look for the Smithsonian Institute's Bird Friendly logo below. If it does not have this logo, the coffee is either not Bird Friendly or may use lesser standards that do not ensure a quality product.


How does Bird Friendly coffee help birds?

A number of studies by ornithologists and ecologists have shown that Bird Friendly coffee farms support a greater diversity of birds, especially migratory birds that nest in the US and Canada, than non-shade-grown coffee. In fact, the only rivals for species richness (the number of species) are the native forests of each region. Not only do shade-grown coffee farms support a higher number of bird species, but they also support a density of migratory birds, 14x more when compared to the local primary forests (forests undisturbed by man)! To top it all off, migratory birds wintering on Bird Friendly or shade-grown coffee farms show an improved body condition, meaning more fat, sufficient muscle tissue, and improved feather quality. There are many reasons for these impressive boons for birds. Below is a small sampling of why these Bird Friendly coffee farms help our birds.

Zach, the Head Flocker, stares longingly at Java Planet Bird Friendly coffee
Some of Zach's favorite Bird Friendly coffee from Java Planet!

Shade-grown coffee farms help birds by:

  1. supporting greater arthropod numbers

  2. harboring more flowering and fruiting plants

  3. offering more structural protection

  4. supporting more plant diversity

  5. creating land ownership and habitat stability


Which birds benefit from Bird Friendly coffee?

Over 50 species of migratory birds benefit from Bird Friendly coffee, and these birds also provide great benefits to the coffee! Here is a (large) handful of species:

  • Swainson's Thrush

  • Scarlet Tanager

  • Chestnut-sided Warbler

  • Wilson's Warbler

  • Gray Catbird

  • Black-throated Green Warbler

  • Ovenbird

  • Baltimore Oriole

  • Indigo Bunting

  • Magnolia Warbler

  • Black-throated Blue Warbler

  • Hooded Warbler

  • Tennessee Warbler

  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

  • Magnolia Warbler

  • Eastern Wood-Pewee

  • Western Wood-Pewee

  • American Redstart

  • Black-and-white-Warbler

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak

  • Common Yellowthroat

  • Golden-winged Warbler

  • Great-crested Flycatcher

  • Wood Thrush

  • Cassin's Vireo

  • Blue-headed Vireo

  • Warbling Vireo

  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Bird Friendly coffee also helps countless resident species in the area they are found. However, that list would be full of species that most readers may not recognize. Or I was too lazy to type them out. Either way, no extra list.


What is the problem with Bird Friendly coffee?

Simply, not enough people are drinking Bird Friendly coffee. A survey by Cornell revealed that less than 10% of surveyed birders were using Bird Friendly coffee. The next biggest issue? Only 40% had even heard of Bird Friendly coffee! Want to help? Buy Bird Friendly coffee for yourself and others, and share the word! The best way to support healthy habitats is with your pocketbook. Spend a few more pennies per pound to support Bird Friendly coffee. These few additional cents add incentive to farmers in Latin America to create coffee farms that are more beneficial to birds.


How do birds help Bird Friendly coffee?

Several studies show that migratory birds, like the Black-throated Blue Warbler, are the main predators of coffee berry borer, a type of beetle native to coffee farms that is the most damaging insect pest found on coffee farms (>$500 million annually). Research estimates that birds can contribute >$125 per acre of crop protection on coffee farms.


If we consider this economic benefit provided by birds and think about how shade-grown coffee attracts a greater variety and density of birds, there is cause to believe that shade-grown coffee could potentially have the greatest bird-induced protections from damaging insect pests.


Additionally, Bird Friendly coffee farms have opportunities for an increase in ecotourism opportunities, as birding is a global hobby with significant economic contributions to thousands of communities.


Are there other benefits of bird-friendly coffee?

Coffee experts have opined that shade-grown coffee can offer a richer and more complex flavor than sun-grown coffee. Why? The coffee bean is allowed to ripen more slowly inside the berry when it is grown in the shade. As for wildlife, Bird Friendly coffee farms are shown to have a greater diversity of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, insects, fruits, flowers, etc. Additionally, soil erosion is less, and adjacent water sources are cleaner. Simply, they create healthier lands.


Where can I find bird-friendly coffee?

The Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute offers a retailer location service here. We also encourage you to check out Wood Warbler Coffee!


Additionally, several retailers provide their Bird Friendly coffee through Amazon. Here are some of those selections:

Flavor

Acidity

Roast

Links

Mellow | Cocoa | Roasted Nuts

Medium

Medium

Smooth | Dark Chocolate | Cherry

Low

Light-Med

Bold | Chocolate | Smokey Finish

Low

Med-Dark

Smooth | Full | Fruity

Low

Med-Dark

Fruity | Caramel | Chocolate

Low

Medium


Does Bird Friendly coffee help me see more birds?

Ah, yes. Back to my original title. Bird Friendly coffee supports healthier, diverse, and more abundant bird populations. Drinking Bird Friendly coffee creates a more supportive habitat for migratory birds that allows them to be healthier for spring migration. So, how does it help you see more birds? Simple. More birds survive wintering grounds and are better conditioned for spring migration, leading to higher survivorship and return to your backyard or local habitat. How about them apple-flavored coffee beans?


 

Want more tips on birds, feeding birds, identifying birds, wildlife safety, and more?? Join our site, subscribe to our Flocking YouTube, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and Twitter, and visit our Amazon Storefront.

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