Bird-Friendly Coffee

Bird-Friendly Coffee Explained: Avian-Friendly Brews

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Have you ever wondered about other ways of supporting birdwatching in your day-to-day life? With the bird-friendly coffee certificate, you can leave a positive impact by buying coffee!

The only question is…does it actually help?

As someone who works in the coffee industry, I’m constantly thinking about how my love for coffee can translate into good for the environment. I regularly keep an eye out for new certifications and recently found myself interested in bird-friendly coffee. What is this certification, anyway, and does it do any good for local bird populations?

If you’re a coffee drinker – or know anybody in love with their morning brew – you won’t want to miss this guide. I’ll break down bird-friendly coffee, why this certification matters, and which roasters you can buy from to support your birdwatching hobby.

unripe green coffee cherries
Image Credit: Depositphotos.

What Is Bird-Friendly Coffee?

Sadly, farming practices aren’t always healthy for local bird populations. Bird-friendly coffee is a shorthand term for a certification process that requires agricultural businesses to meet certain standards to keep bird populations healthy.

The Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute created the Certified Bird-Friendly coffee certification back in the 1990s as a response to shrinking bird habitats. This certificate involves looking at agricultural practices that could harm the local bird population and requiring businesses to commit to alternatives to reverse the damage.

Considering over 5,000 farmers produce bird-friendly coffee and this certification lines up with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, I’d say it’s doing some good!

A few important requirements for bird-friendly coffee certification include:

  • Promoting plant and tree diversity
  • Requiring a certain amount of foliage cover
  • 100% organic certification to eliminate harmful pesticides
  • The certification has now extended to cocoa products, too

Protecting diverse plants and trees results in a habitat where birds can nest, mate, and feed without trouble. Foliage cover is also essential to give birds a place to nest or hide from predators. Lastly, the elimination of pesticides is crucial since birds sometimes ingest plant matter or insects with harmful chemicals, poisoning them in the process.

Additionally, this certificate also provides a premium to farmers to encourage them to keep up these standards in the long term. After all, if you can’t afford to grow or alter your farm to maintain best practices, you can’t commit.

Does Starbucks Have Bird-Friendly Coffee?

Starbucks sells some coffee that is bird-friendly. However, I recommend double-checking the labels of the bags before you buy since not all of them may be covered under this certification.

How Do You Know if Coffee is Bird-Friendly?

This certification will be displayed on either the front or back of your coffee bag, box, or packet. Look for the little square logo with trees, birds, and the words ‘Bird-Friendly Smithsonian’.

A shot of an amazing Hummingbird perching on a tree branch on a blurry background
Image Credit: Depositphotos.

Fast Facts About the Challenges Birds Face Today

I won’t mince words with you here: many bird populations are facing extinction or becoming endangered as you read this guide. According to Statista, one out of every eight bird species is currently facing extinction (such as the snowy owl and multiple types of hummingbirds).

Almost Half of All Bird Species Could Be Gone Soon

The same study cited above states another 40% of the world’s bird species are declining significantly and there are many reasons why that is. The most obvious is due to the destruction of their habitat, such as deforestation, pollution, and the growth of climate change.

Far too many birds are eating poisoned plant matter or losing trees they need to build nests and thrive. When it comes to farming practices – and, thus, your coffee – healthy bird populations are a must. Many bird species spend time in coffee farms eating insects that could destroy crops or rodents that could get into coffee supplies.

If coffee farms are filled with pesticides or lacking in foliage cover, these birds can struggle to survive and cause a ripple effect that impacts the entire farm.

Even Sustainable Technology Can Still Harm Birds

Yes, even the cleanest and most sustainable technology can still harm bird populations. According to recent studies, wind farms alone kill hundreds of thousands of birds per year.

Does this mean we shouldn’t try to use cleaner energy? Far from it. Wind farms are still vital for reducing pollution while still providing life-saving electricity. Statistics like these give us vital insight into the flaws in our technology so we can continue to improve how we interact with the natural world.

While many coffee farms and roasters are going the extra mile to reduce their environmental impact, it’s important to stay aware of where these efforts fall short.

You Can Make Your Dollar Go Further With Smart Purchasing Habits

The good news? With a little research and the will to make a difference, your purchase can still go to businesses attempting to reverse the damage to bird populations.

Let’s take a look at businesses you can buy from who actively contribute to bird conservation and sustainability.

Motion blurred studio studio shot of coffee beans being poured into a child's hands
Image Credit: Depositphotos.

Where To Find Bird-Friendly Coffee To Support Your Passion

If you’re mentally checking your pantry to see if you’ve bought from bird-friendly coffee businesses in the past, never fear. I have a few brands you can check out below that are dedicated to supporting safe farming practices for birds.

Birds & Beans

With a title like that, you already know you’re in the right place. Birds & Beans provides coffee that is Certified Bird Friendly®, Certified USDA Organic, and Certified Fair Trade.

The business owners started this brand back in 2009 to help coffee drinkers become more knowledgeable about their favorite drink and the harm – and good – it can do.

Do you like bright and acidic light roast coffees? How about balanced, nutty, or fruity medium roasts? This brand offers a range of roast levels as well as a decaf bag and a convenient coffee subscription.

Wood Warbler Coffee

Here’s another lovely business name that scratches the birdwatching and coffee-drinking itch. Wood Warbler Coffee is not a roaster, but only purchases from roasters who are Certified Bird Friendly®…as well as a few other certifications!

They’re also dedicated to sourcing coffee that is certified under the Rainforest Alliance (or RFA). This certification trains farmers how to use climate-safe agricultural practices such as protecting the soil, preventing deforestation, and reducing cropland expansion.

As you can imagine, this certificate is also incredibly important for maintaining the livelihood of birds who call these trees home.

Gold Country Roasters

Want to see just how far your dollar can go? Gold Country Roasters is not only Certified Bird Friendly®, but they also donate a portion of all sales back to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo to support their ongoing research.

Now that’s what I call dedication. They currently offer three coffee bags with this certification and all of them sound delightful. One is a savory Colombian French Roast with notes of tobacco and pecan, while their Nicaragua has hints of brown sugar and dark cocoa.


You’ve likely already browsed the National Audubon Society at one point, so you may not be surprised they offer coffee. Just in case you didn’t know, they have five bags you can buy from – all Certified Bird Friendly®!

Additionally, their coffee is all organic and shade-grown. Their selection offers a light roast, medium roast, dark roast, decaf, and espresso. If you subscribe, you’ll save an extra 5%.

Dean’s Beans

Let’s go out with a bang with an award-winning roaster that is not only certified Bird Friendly, but also won the Flourish Award in 2019 in the Sustainable Goal Development category. Dean’s Beans’ entire selection is shade-grown, while a few of their recent coffees now have the Bird Friendly certificate.

They offer two coffees from Peru – one caffeinated and one decaffeinated. They also sell green coffee if you fancy yourself getting into home roasting.

Coffee roaster cylinder roasting and mixing coffee beans
Image Credit: Depositphotos.

Tips for Buying Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Coffee

If purchasing more sustainable coffee is something you’re interested in, I have a few more tips to steer you in the right direction. The coffee industry isn’t exactly easy to navigate even for long-time coffee lovers, so I want to ensure you know what to look for and why.

You Should Also Seek Out Shade-Grown Coffee

Did you notice several of the coffee purchases I recommended were also shade-grown? This farming practice is extremely important for several reasons: creating tastier coffee, protecting plants, and supporting bird populations.

I recommend taking a few minutes out of your day to learn about how shade-grown coffee creates a more sustainable habitat for both humans and birds. It’s fascinating stuff!

A few brands I’ve purchased from that commit to shade-grown coffee are Mayorga Coffee and Counter Culture Coffee. Trust me: you won’t be disappointed.

an array of empty coffee bags from coffee roasters such as Mayorga coffee, Counter Culture coffee, and Kuma coffee
Image Credit: Ashe Samuels.

Never Be Afraid To Use Your Voice and Reach Out

In a whirlwind media cycle of new movies and breaking news, it’s easy to feel drowned out by all the noise. As a birder and a coffee lover, let me assure you your voice is still vital to environmental change.

Spreading knowledge can be as simple as noticing a coffee brand doesn’t have a bird-friendly certification, and then sending a quick email if they’ve considered adding it to their roster. You could also reach out to grocery store representatives and tell them you’re interested in purchasing more products under sustainability initiatives.

Every little effort counts toward creating a healthier and safer world to live in.

Spread the Word to Your Coffee-Loving Friends

You can also do a lot of good by simply spreading the word to your coffee-loving friends, co-workers, and family members. If they’ve never heard of this certification – or shade-grown coffee – now’s a great time to spread the word.

Share a link to an article. Recommend a brand that recently got certified for bird friendliness. Slowly but surely, you can create a ripple effect that gradually saves the lives of birds around the world.

Keep an Ear to the Ground To Ensure You’re Buying the Right Product

Last but not least, consider keeping an ear to the ground to ensure you’re making effective buying decisions. There are quite a few reliable online resources to save you time digging through countless news sites to find information.

Daily Coffee News is a coffee industry news site that updates regularly with new businesses, information on certificates, and sustainable businesses you can support.

If you have a Google Suite account, another useful tool I use is the Google Alerts function for my email. Type in a keyword such as ‘bird-friendly certificate’ or ‘shade-grown coffee’ and you’ll receive relevant news updates in real-time.

a close-up of a magnolia warbler perching on a pine tree with a yellow belly and mottled black and white wings
Image Credit: Depositphotos.

Support Your Coffee Hobby and Birdwatching at the Same Time

Support birdwatching or support your coffee habit? With the aid of passionate workers and certificate programs, you don’t have to choose.

The bird-friendly certificate isn’t as well-known as the USDA certification, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary as bird populations decline around the world. With your purchases and a little word-of-mouth, you can contribute to businesses working to make the world safer for countless bird species.

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