Bird-Friendly Coffee Conserves Habitat & Brings Colorful Annual Songbirds to Your Cache Valley Summer Garden!

Bird-Friendly Coffee: Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Archilochus alexandri
Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer

Bird-Friendly Coffee: Roasted Coffee Beans Courtesy Pixabay, Couleur, Photographer Roasted Coffee Beans
Courtesy Pixabay, Couleur, Photographer

Since 1956 the Bridgerland Audubon Society has been documenting about one hundred bird species braving our northern Utah winters, but there’s an equally wonderful array of birds that spend their summers in Cache Valley. Come fall, some of our most colorful summer denizens migrate south to spend the winter months on bird-friendly shade-grown coffee plantations in Latin America. These birds include the colorful yellow and orange Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Bullock’s Orioles as well as the intensely blue Lazuli Buntings and our tiny Black-chinned Hummingbirds with their iridescent purple necklace that shines like a neon light. In total, 42 migratory songbird species have been documented as flying from North America to shade-grown coffee plantations south of the border, and Bird-Friendly coffee is saving their habitat.

Our local Caffe Ibis website captures the importance of shade-grown coffee for migratory birds in featuring Bird Friendly coffee that “comes from family farms in Latin America that provide good, forest-like habitat for birds. Rather than being grown on farms that have been cleared of vegetation, Bird Friendly coffees are planted under a canopy of trees. These trees provide the shelter, food and homes that migratory and local birds need to survive and thrive.”

Shade-grown coffee is a mutually beneficial farming system for both migratory birds and coffee producers because the birds eat coffee insect pests and they help pollinate the flowers of the all-important shade trees. As a result, a single bird can provide the coffee producer with a much greater coffee harvest that amounts to up to 24 more pounds of coffee beans per acre each year. That increased yield means about 1,500 more cups of coffee provided by a single bird!

Certified Bird Friendly® coffee is a designation made by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC). The gold standard for ethical, sustainable, organic coffee, this Bird Friendly certification helps ensure that growers can maintain shade-grown coffee practices rather than giving in to the economic pressure to produce habitat-destroying cheaper sun-grown coffee. Certification places value on the farmer and the habitat rather than on cheaper coffee. Because both sun-grown and shade-grown coffee farms span a large portion of important wintering bird habitat, you can help provide economic support for farmers protecting important bird habitat by buying sustainable “Bird Friendly” labeled coffees.

Shade-grown coffee farms are good for birds, good for people, and good for the planet. So, for those who enjoy coffee, bird-friendly coffee is all the more enjoyable because your selection is a positive conservation action. As you sip your Bird-Friendly certified coffee, just marvel at the fact that a hummingbird egg is about the size of a single coffee bean!

This segment concludes with a shout out to Caffe Ibis Coffee Maven Emerita Sally Sears, and another shout out to Lesa Wilson, who now carries the torch for Caffe Ibis, a community leader in sustainability that provides environmentally sound and ethically sourced coffee.

I’m Hilary Shughart, President of the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am Wild About Utah!

Photo: Coffee beans, Courtesy Pixabay, Couleur, Photographer
Photo: Black-chinned Hummingbird, Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer,
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver,
Text: Hilary Shughart, President,
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham,

Additional Reading

WildAboutUtah pieces by Hilary Shughart

Birds Supported by Coffee Farms, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, [link updated December 9, 2023]

Caffe Ibis Triple-Certified Bird-Friendly Coffees

Caffe Ibis Coffee Roasting Company
52 Federal Avenue, Logan UT 8432,fair-trade,organic

Trevino, Julissa, Coffee Growing Can Be Good For Birds, Smithsonian Magazine, Feb 20, 2018,

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Bird Friendly® Coffee Program Protects Migratory Birds and Supports Shade-Grown Coffee Farms, Smithsonian Global, Smithsonian Institution, Jul 15, 2018,’s-bird-friendly®-coffee-program-protects-migratory

How Are Coffee And Birds Related?, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, April 1, 2009,

Black-chinned Hummingbird, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University,

Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus, Field Guide, National Audubon,

Caffe Ibis Bird-Friendly Coffee List,
french roast
mexican chiapas
double french
fly catcher
espresso 44
dark peru
peruvian rainforest
condor coffee
guatemalan forest
anca/nature’s delight
decaf peru
la paz
dark guatamela
decaf mexican chiapas
new day
raspberry mocha
fresh vanilla
vanilla nut
bear lake raspberry
heavenly hazelnut

Migratory Birds and Coffee

Western Tanager
Courtesy & Copyright © 2010
Michael Fish

For many of us, the day has not truly begun until we hold a warm mug of richly flavored coffee in our hands. But how often have you considered where that coffee comes from and how its culture impacts wild Utah?

We tend to think of migratory birds as our residents who take a winter vacation to the south every year. But it is more truly the other way around. They are representatives from groups of tropical birds who venture north to take advantage of less crowded nesting and a seasonal abundance of food for their young. For instance, of the 49 species of true tanagers, only 4 summer in the United States. Much of our coffee originates in Central and South America and its production directly affects birds who fly north to nest in Utah.

Traditionally, coffee bushes are grown under a diverse canopy. Some of the trees in the overstory yield timber, others fix nitrogen and still others like papaya provide food. This multi-tiered habitat supports a wide variety of birds that is only exceeded by undisturbed tropical forest itself.

About twenty years ago, coffee production changed radically with the development of varieties that tolerate full sun. This has allowed huge areas of land to be cleared of forest and planted exclusively to row after row of coffee bushes that demand intensive management. More fertilizer and pesticides are needed leading to toxic runoff. Soil erosion increases. Much lovely bird habitat has been destroyed for this barren coffee monoculture. Many migratory bird populations are in trouble due to the loss of their forested winter habitats.

But there is hope for coffee lovers because many farmers still grow coffee in the traditional way. These grower-owned farms tend to be smaller and provide a more reliable income for the farmer due to the diversity of crops. Soil quality is maintained while providing critical habitat for tropical frogs, insects, plants and birds. When purchasing coffee, look for bird friendly or shade grown or certification by Rainforest Alliance or Smithsonian. Our warblers, tanagers and thrushes will thank you.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.


Images: Courtesy & Copyright Michael Fish
Text: Linda Kervin, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Additional Reading:

Shade-Grown Coffee, National Audubon Website,

Song Bird Coffee, American Birding Association,

Some Coffee-related Resources, American Birding Association,

Why Migratory Birds are Crazy for Coffee, Migrants and Coffee: What’s the Connection?, National Zoo, Smithsonian Institution,

Why Migratory Birds Are Crazy for Coffee, Atlanta Audubon Society, formerly:

Smithsonian-Certified Shade Grown & Bird Friendly Coffee, Caffe Ibis,