What is Bird Friendly Coffee?

Bird Friendly Habitat for as Far as the Eye Can See

We are frequently asked: “What exactly is Bird Friendly® coffee and why does it matter?”

Bird Friendly coffee preserves habitat for forest creatures in Latin America including our migratory songbirds. Coffee that is certified Bird Friendly grows in an agro-forest.  The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) certifies that these forests provide good habitat for wildlife.  

All Bird Friendly coffee is first certified organic, and then goes much further adding standards for shade cover, plant species diversity, canopy structure, required buffer zones, leaf litter cover and much more. These are all necessary for wildlife to flourish.  

Read more on Bird Friendly criteria here.


In Latin America, where most of our migratory songbirds spend their winters, deforestation for agriculture is happening at an alarmingly fast rate.  Forests are mowed down for monoculture and the impact on wildlife is devastating. Huge declines in our migratory songbirds are noticeable to those of us old enough to remember the plentiful songbirds here in Southern Ontario only 20 years ago.  You can help slow the rate of deforestation by purchasing Certified Bird Friendly coffee.  This supports those growers who valiantly maintain the front-lines of the resistance to this overwhelming destruction.

Bird Friendly farms provide habitat for a wide range of species, not just birds!
A hooded warbler finds a grub in a coffee forest
Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting migrating from Latin America to its breeding ground in Ontario

By choosing Bird Friendly certified coffee, we support the growers who steward forest ecosystems.  Beyond preservation of ecosystems and diversity of species, Bird Friendly stewardship also results in soil conservation,  pest control, pollination, water storage, carbon storage and climate change mitigation.  Preserving expansive and diverse forests in central and south America are necessary to world climate and the well being of global systems.  They have been called the lungs of the world and they mitigate climate change. Read more on ecological benefits here.

Sometimes the phrase "Shade Grown" is used on coffee labels as if it were equivalent to Bird Friendly.  Unfortunately, this is like accepting "natural" as equivalent to "organic".  While Bird Friendly coffee is indeed "shade grown", we need to go a bit deeper if we want to ensure our good will hits the target. It isn't the shade that provides the habitat but the fact that Bird Friendly farms are functioning, biodiverse, forest ecosystems.   The SMBC developed the Bird Friendly coffee certification so we can confidently choose to support produces who grow their coffee in harmony with forest dwellers...  Forest dwellers like this troupe of howler monkeys David saw on a Bird Friendly coffee farm in Nicaragua.

Sales of Certified Bird Friendly coffee also help to fund the research performed by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. This research advances the understanding of migratory birds that we need in order to preserve them for future generations. Look for the seal on the bags when you buy your coffee.  You will find this seal on all of our bags.

One Reply to “What is Bird Friendly Coffee?”

  1. Re: A forest ecosystem is not the same as “trees”. See this article about monoculture tree planting that has unintended negative consequences. By contrast the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has characterized a functioning forest ecosystem and applies it to growers of Bird Friendly® coffee. It requires a diversity of native trees, several layers of forest, leaf litter and much more. It takes a trained organic inspector 2 weeks to learn how to apply the criteria for the certification. An ecosystem is biodiverse. http://blog.therainforestsite.com/cs-tree-farms/?utm_source=trs-trsfan&utm_medium=social-fb&utm_term=20151228&utm_content=link&utm_campaign=cs-tree-farms&origin=trs_trsfan_social_fb_link_cs-tree-farms_20151228

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