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What Is Bird-Friendly Coffee?

The easily identifiable stamp, or colourful birds adorning the label on your coffee, often raise this query.

Bird Friendly® is a phrase and certification developed and trademarked by scientists at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (Washington, D.C) In short, the coffee growers with the certification practice ecologically sustainable farming methods, are 100% organic and shade grown, and provide a welcome habitat for birds.
Coffee is one of the most popular and most heavily sprayed crops in the world. Sprawling, massive fields stretch out for miles under the blazing sun, each batch ready for harvesting when the cherries turn a deep red.
To guarantee a bountiful and unblemished harvest, the glossy green leaves are often drenched in pesticides and the soil is pumped with synthetic fertilizers - to bring back the depleted nutrients washed out by heavy rains and monoculture crops.

While these farming practices can create high coffee yields, the impact on the environment and wildlife can be devastating. Monoculture is susceptible to attack by bacteria, fungi, and insects - all which then must be controlled by increasing amounts of fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides, which in turn creates a need for applications of fertilizers again and again.  A diverse habitat of native plants is imperative to sustain a wide range of birds and other wildlife.

<Shade grown coffee farmers

That’s why in 1990 Dr.Robert Rice and other research scientists at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) started the  Bird Friendly® certification program. The certification process is rigorous and must be repeated every three years.
The certification guarantees that the coffee is:
-organic as a prerequisite, which means healthy soils, no pesticides (pest population is controlled by their natural predators) no synthetic fertilizers (instead, natural leaf litter is broken down into a rich compost) and
-grown on coffee farms under a shade-tree canopy, merging cofee production and the rainforest in the same area. The resulting beans have a deeper and richer flavour, having matured more slowly.
-maintain a healthy ecosystem.  Rainforests are often referred to as the lungs of the world - and a coffee plantation with the right combination of foliage cover, tree height, and plant species diversity provides a suitable habitat for migratory birds while maintaining productivity. A shade coffee plantation is a haven to almost as much biodiversity as untouched forest.
Why is it important?
The strict criteria ensures the coffee plantation is certified by an independent third-party inspector. These guidelines result in a coffee that offers all the environmental benefits of organic coffee, which in turn have additional benefits for migratory birds like orioles, tanagers, and warblers.

-benefits populations of migratory songbirds that spend their winter in Central American rainforests.

-supports the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center research and conservation programs. 

-helps farmers steward the forest ecosystems, support their families, and hold out against economic pressures for high yields with high consequences. (con’t)

As well as preservation of ecosystems and diversity of species, Bird Friendly stewardship also results in soil conservation, pollination, water and carbon storage,  and even reduce climate change.


All that being said, bird-friendly coffee is a wonderful thing to support, whether you love birds, the earth, or even just good coffee.

Read more here:
Image sources:
Scarlet tanager
Wilsons warbler
Cerulean warbler
Rain forest 1:


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