In 2009, US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released the first ever comprehensive report on bird populations in the United States, showing that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other threats. The possibility of extinction also remains a cold reality for many endangered birds.
However, the report also reveals convincing evidence that birds can respond quickly and positively to conservation action. And we as public citizens can help. In fact, our help is vital. National Audubon Society’s Bird Conservation Director, Greg Butcher, says “Conservation action can only make a real difference when concerned people support…vital habitat restoration and protection measures.” So how, exactly, can we help?
Each of these topics can be covered in a lot more detail, but you can start being a Bird Hero today!
The Top 10 Ways to be a ‘Bird Hero’:
If you have field areas around your house, leave the grass standing until after August 1 or later.Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Meadowlarks and other grassland birds need open hayfields for nesting. Many grassland species are experiencing serious population decline. These birds nest on the ground, and the babies mature through June and fledge through the end of July.Mowing fields during this timeframe often results in complete nestling mortality. For farmers with active hay fields needed for livestock feed, check out our additional publication for ways to co-exist with the bobolinks.
Try to avoid cutting trees, both live and dead, during spring and summer. Many woodland birds, such as owls, woodpeckers, nuthatches and warblers nest in trees and dead tree cavities. If you do need to cut, do the minimal amount necessary, and try to scout the area for birds. An active bird nest will have parents back and forth to the nest many times each day.
Leash your dog when you are out walking in fields or woods. Dogs are great walking companions and many of us enjoy letting our dogs run free in the woods and fields. At this time of year, however, it is important to be aware of where your dog is – woodlands as well as grasslands are home to many ground nesting birds that are vulnerable to even a well-meaning dog.
Keep cats inside or in a fenced enclosure, especially during this time of year. Cats pose a great threat to adult birds, busily gathering food for their babies, as well as newly fledged nestlings that need time to condition their flight muscles and learn the ropes. This time of year, both are particularly vulnerable to cat predation, as are birds that nest or feed on or near the ground.
Feed the hummingbirds, but be sure to use nectar that has no coloring dye in it. The nectar does not need to be red to attract the humming birds, and it has been shown that the red dye in many hummingbird nectars can actually cause harm to the birds. It is easy to make your own humming bird nectar – boil 4 cups of water and add one cup of sugar, mix until combined. This will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two. Also be sure to leave your feeders out at the end of the season until you are sure the hummingbirds have all gone. They’ll need to be well fed to make a successful journey to their winter homes!
Get the lead out – do not use lead when hunting or fishing. There are alternatives to lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle. Lead ingestion is a death sentence for loons, other waterbirds and predatory birds that feed on lead-contaminated prey. Lead sinkers and jigs are accidentally swallowed by loons when they are foraging for the gravel they need for their digestion or when feeding on fish attached to lead tackle. Birds of prey and scavengers can get lead poisoning when feeding on birds and fish contaminated with lead tackle and also when feeding on carcasses or remains of prey hunted with lead ammunition. Using only non–lead fishing tackle and ammunition saves lives.
Reduce window strikes at your house by applying window decals or film. If you have windows that birds commonly fly into, check out products on the market to help reduce window strikes. CollidEscape offers a line of products including decals, UV liquid, and a window film that makes your windows visible to birds without obstructing your view of the great outdoors. http://www.collidescape.org Research has shown Collidescape film to be nearly 100% effective at preventing collisions. That is great news for the birds!
If you find a baby bird or an injured or sick bird, call a licensed rehabilitation center for advice and guidance. First, get the bird out of immediate harm’s way, if necessary. Remember to put your own safety first! Then call the experts for some help. For example, Avian Haven Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center is open 7 days a week, and can be reached at 382-6761. While in your care, try to keep the bird warm, dark, and quiet, away from children and pets. The best way to set up the bird is in a covered cardboard box with air-holes and padding, such as an old towel, on the bottom of the box. Birds have vastly different dietary needs, depending on the species, so do not attempt to feed a bird anything until you have talked with a knowledgeable rehabber.
If you have space, put up bird nesting boxes. Be sure to research proper location and sizing of the nest box entrance for the species you are trying to attract. Box entrance holes should be sized appropriately to help control nest parasitism and predation. It is also essential to locate boxes in areas that are as safe as possible from predators, and far enough apart to give nesting birds needed space. Specifics vary for each species. Do your homework.
Scan your yard and surrounding area for bird hazards. Plastic tarps or bags, artificial Halloween spider webs, fly paper and sticky traps, pesticides of all kinds, and other types of chemicals are all things we might have outside that can pose a threat to birds. Look around for things that birds could get entangled in, injured by or accidentally ingest. Remove or cover these items. Try to find alternative ways to handle pest issues, using pesticides only as a last resort. Birds that feed on bugs or rodents that have been poisoned can suffer secondary poisoning themselves.
With a little thought and planning, we can make all make a difference.