You may ask yourself, "I am not rich or a scientist. What can I really do to help birds?"
The answer: A LOT!!
The American Bird Conservancy recently created the Top Ten Ways to Help Birds. These actions are so good that Bird City Wisconsin borrowed and adapted them to share with you. Are you up to the challenge?
1. Keep your cat indoors.
Being inside is best for your cat. Did you know that indoor cats live three to seven years longer than cats that go outside? Cats are also responsible for an estimated 2.4 billion bird deaths each year (and 12 billion mammals). In the spring, young birds or nestlings often end up on the ground, attracting the fatal attention of a nearby cat. Ground-nesting species that are especially vulnerable include Killdeer and Wood Thrush, but all baby birds—from ducks to warblers—will be on the ground for a critical period of time.
2. Prevent window collisions.
As many as one billion birds die each year after colliding with glass in buildings. You can reduce this problem at your home by applying a variety of window treatments. For example, products like Acopian Bird Savers and ABC BirdTape are proven solutions that are inexpensive and long-lasting. (See a short video here.) Birds most prone to fatal collisions at home windows or glass doors include Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Wood Thrush.
3. Eliminate pesticides from your yard.
Even those pesticides that are not directly toxic to birds can pollute waterways and reduce insects that birds rely on for food. For rodent control, seal cracks, remove food sources, and use snap and electric traps rather than rodenticides, which can poison raptors such as hawks and owls as well as young children. And be sure not to garden with neonicotinoid-coated seeds, or neonics, which are lethal to songbirds as well as to bees and other invertebrates. Learn more here.
4. Buy organic food and drink Smithsonian-certified Bird Friendly® coffee.
Going organic helps reduce pesticide use on farms and increases the market for produce grown without the use of pesticides that can be toxic to birds and other animals. It will also help to reduce the use of these hazardous chemicals in the United States and overseas. Shade coffee farms have been shown to provide far superior habitat for birds than coffee grown in open sun. Drinking only Bird Friendly®-certified coffee is one of the easiest ways to help migratory birds.
5. Create backyard habitat using native plants.
When you garden with plants that evolved in your local habitat, you supply native insects and their larvae with food. The insects are an irreplaceable food source provided by birds to their nestlings. Yards both large and small can benefit birds and other wildlife. Create a diverse landscape by planting native grasses, flowers, and shrubs that attract birds. You will be rewarded by their beauty and song and have fewer insect pests as a result. Find bird-friendly native plants for your area using Audubon's Plants for Birds site.
6. Reduce your carbon footprint.
While all forms of energy use affect birds, small individual actions add up and can make a difference. Use a hand-pushed or electric lawnmower, carpool, and use low-energy bulbs and Energy Star appliances. Less energy used means less habitat destroyed for energy production.
7. Donate old bird-watching equipment.
Binoculars or spotting scopes will be appreciated by local bird watching groups—they can get them to schools or biologists in other countries who may not have the resources they need. More people studying birds means more voices for bird conservation!
8. Keep bird feeders and baths clean and in the right place to keep birds alive.
If you feed the birds, make sure you aren't accidentally allowing the spread of disease. Disinfect feeders and bird baths, and change water regularly or use a drip system to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. The safest locations for bird feeders is within three feet of your house or more than 30 feet away. When the feeder is really close, a bird will not be able to gain enough speed to have a fatal window collision. When the feeder is really far away, birds are better able to perceive that your windows are part of your house and not a flyway. The size of your windows and vegetation can also play a role.
9. Support bird-friendly legislation... and VOTE!
U.S. policy makers frequently make decisions that affect birds. For example, decisions are now being made that will impact the survival of the imperiled Greater Sage-Grouse. By raising your voice, you can help to influence the outcome for birds on this and other important issues.
10. Do what it takes to make sure that you live in a Bird City Wisconsin community and join two bird conservation groups.
You are probably aware that living in a Bird City means that conservation and education advocates work together and that your local elected officials listen. If your community isn't currently a Bird City, you should consider starting an application today. Your support for organizations that conduct effective education and outreach provides needed dollars for bird conservation, enabling you to help achieve more than is possible through individual efforts. Membership also enables you to become more informed and involved in the issues you're concerned about.