Shade Grown and Bird Friendly Coffee

What is Bird Friendly Coffee or Shade Grown Coffee?

Baltimore Oriole benefits from bird friendly coffee Bird friendly coffee is coffee grown on farms under a shade-tree canopy, forest-like habitat. If you drink coffee and love birds, then you might as well drink shade grown coffee which benefits birds.

Bird friendly coffee mostly benefits neotropical migratory songbirds that winter in Central American rainforests.

shade grown coffee plantations benefits birds Habitat loss, especially tropical rainforests, have caused a decline in migratory songbird populations. And sun coffee plantations have contributed to this loss.

Basically shade grown coffee benefits birds because it provides far better habitat than sun-grown monoculture coffee plantations.

On a shade grown coffee farm, there is structural plant diversity that provides food and shelter, not only for bird species, but for many other organisms, including mammals, reptiles and insects.

Bird Friendly and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Shade Grown Coffee FarmWe have been speaking in the general sense that "bird friendly coffee" is any coffee grown on shaded farms.

But actually the phrase, "Bird Friendly®" has been trade-marked by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center of the National Zoo. Coffees with this logo mean that they are certified as shade grown and organic by an independent third-party inspector using the Smithsonian's criteria.

And Bird Friendly® coffees contribute 25 cents per pound to support Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center research and conservation programs.

Shade Grown Doesn't Automatically Mean Bird Friendly® Coffee

bird friendly coffee sealJust because a package of coffee is labeled as "Shade Grown" doesn't necessarily mean is good for the environment or the birds.

Some shade grown coffee is grown in the shade of non-native trees that don't attract native birds or grown on farms that rely on pesticides.

So look for the Bird Friendly® seal (from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center of the National Zoo), or do some research on your own to find out where your shade grown coffee is actually grown. 

American Birding Association Songbird Coffee

ABA shade grown songbird coffeeSong Bird Coffee is a shade-grown coffee brand and is the result of a joint venture between the American Birding Association (ABA) and Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

Fifteen cents from each package are donated to the ABA. Similar to Bird Friendly® coffees, Thanksgiving Coffee uses verified shade grown coffee.

This means that its CEO or the importer has personally inspected the farm to insure that the plants are properly grown in the shade. The Thanksgiving Coffee Company has been a socially and environmentally aware coffee producer for over 34 years.

Shade Grown Coffee vs Sun Grown Coffee

Historically, coffee was originally grown under shade. These coffee plant Shade Grown Coffee vs Sun Grownspecies were sun-intolerant, requiring shade.

But in 1972, new hybrid, sun-tolerant coffee varieties were developed that yielded 2-3x more coffee beans than shade grown varieties.

More coffee = more $$ = clearcutting shade farms and rainforest habitat. Of the 6 million acres of coffee lands, 60% have been stripped of shade trees since 1972.

So essentially sustainable, shade grown coffee farms maintain an alternative, forested habitat for songbirds.

Shaded coffee farms are not replicas of natural rainforest habitat, but do provide food, water and shelter that these birds otherwise wouldn't have, especially in clearcut sun coffee farms. I

n fact, shade coffee farms support over 150 species of birds which far exceeds sun coffee plantations. These shade farms also benefit other animals and plants in addition to songbirds.

Shade Grown Coffee Sun Grown Coffee
Historical, traditional, sustainable method of farming preserves tree-canopy habitat for songbirds and other animals Crop requires full sun, resulting in clearcutting of rainforest habitat causing soil erosion and depletion; unsustainable
Usually organically grown, free of chemical applications Requires chemical fertilizers, pesticides and/or herbicides
Better taste - beans mature more slowly in shade allowing the natural sugars to fully develop, creating a rich, intense flavor Sun-grown hybrid coffees produce higher yields, but do not taste nearly as good as shade-grown coffee

Birds help with Pest Management in Coffee Plantations:

Birds help reduce the coffee berry borer damage to coffee plantationsThe coffee berry borer is estimated to do a half billion dollars worth of damage to coffee crops every year.

Farmers are now realizing the benefit of insect-eating birds.

For example, in Jamaica it is estimated that warblers can reduce damage by $237 an acre to prized Jamaican Blue Coffee and other high mountain crops. Another score for the birds!

Drink bird friendly coffee and create songbird habitat...An even better way to start your mornings!

Where to buy Bird Friendly® Coffee?

Use the Smithsonian search form to search by state for coffees on the market that are certified as 100% shade-grown and organic, meaning that they are grown without the use of chemical pesticides that poison the environment.

For more information about bird friendly, shade grown, fair-trade and organic coffee labels and what they mean, go to the Cornell's All About Birds & Coffee.

How to Make More Eco-Friendly Coffee
Infographic by CustomMade

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