“What Can I Do To Help?”

If you are asking this question after reading about the study, you

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White-throated Sparrow
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

are not alone as the enormity of the numbers of birds lost is difficult to comprehend.  Some of the hardest hit birds are ones we see most often  – White-throated SparrowsRed-winged BlackbirdsEastern and Western MeadowlarksDark-eyed Juncos.  But as the report indicated, grassland birds, shorebirds, forest dwellers and any birds that rely on insects are in trouble. Birds are an essential part of our lives as they comprise a very important building block of nature which provides us free of charge with the basic components we need to survive.  Such a massive decline in the biomass of any one major building block is very troubling and we should fix what we can as soon as we can. Birds really need your help – are you ready to be part of the solution?

1 – GET OUTSIDE AND LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ABOUT NATURE – watch what birds do, listen to frogs, see which butterflies migrate through your area,  look up at the stars and listen to migrating birds talking to each other at night. (We have a piece on this later in the newsletter). Try to create a connection with nature that our society has lost.  This is critical to understanding and respecting nature and how much the natural world provides us for free. It’s also enormously good for the soul. We can start doing this right now. Take your neighbors, your kids and their friends to do some exploring and just watching nature — and do it as much as possible.  Bring your binoculars and look at everything, do some journaling, bring your camera and take photos, draw pictures of what you see, report banded birds. Take people who might never have the chance to experience nature on a wild exploration. The difference you can make by forging this connection is huge.
 
WHY?  To be inspired to protect birds and nature often requires understanding it.  One of the best ways to do this is to spend time immersed in it.  Not only is this one of the best classroom experiences ever, its also good for us on so many levels.  And it helps us see first hand why we should care about birds and nature at all. Not everyone has the opportunity to do this. Create the opportunity to get people involved in nature and take the time to pay attention.  It’s the best way to learn the language of nature. And to get a fuller experience, download Cornell’s Merlin app, and iNaturalist’s Seek appto identify everything from birds to plants, reptiles to butterflies.  And have a blast!

2 – PLANT NATIVE PLANTS WHEREVER YOU CAN.  Do it in your township parks and your own backyard, terrace, roofdeck, office park.  Tell your neighbors what you are doing, and if you live in a community which controls the landscaping on public and/or private land, ask them to make

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Fiery Skipper
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

native plants the standard.

WHY? When you plant native plants you are creating native habitatwhich is what birds and other wildlife need to survive. You will see an upsurge in birds, butterflies and other wildlife who use your newly created habitat designed for them – no matter the size. Native plants are great because they require less maintenance and no toxic chemicals to keep them looking wonderful.  They will also attract wildlife, butterflies and birds….also quite possibly your neighbors who will want to have the same cool yard you have! Find out which native plants to use and how to create a meadow or garden with these Audubon tools.

3 – LOOK FOR WAYS TO CONNECT THE RESTORED HABITAT you have created.

WHY? There is more benefit in 2 acres of uninterrupted habitat than there is in 2 acres of fragmented habitat over 50 acres.  If you have some property, try to combine the natural areas and keep them contiguous and connect with another property if possible, and so on, so there is continuous and uninterrupted habitat.  This makes for a better and safer place to live for birds and wildlife.

4 – MAKE THE GLASS ON YOUR OWN HOUSE OR APARTMENT BIRD SAFE. Let your neighbors know what you have done and why. Tell your local and state representatives to change building regulations so that all glass on new construction is required to be bird safe.  And request retrofitting of reflective and clear glass with bird safe film (or one of a multitude of other

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Solyx Bird Safe Film on my window
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

products that keep birds from crashing into windows) on all government buildings and buildings where there are high incidences of bird deaths.

WHY? Bird strikes on glass in the US alone account for over 600 million bird deaths each year.  Many cities are taking the lead on mitigating these pointless deaths by passing laws on bird safe glass. Chicago and New York for example are leaders in the US on this. A number of bird safe products meet LEED requirements, making them a natural for any LEED project.Learn more about bird strikes and what you can do to stop them from Flap.org and the American Bird Conservancy.

5 – KEEP ALL DOMESTIC CATS INDOORS. If you feel your cat is impaired by being inside, teach him to walk on a lead and take him for walks outside on a lead, supervised – even in your own backyard.  Get him a spacious catio so he can free-wheel on his own in the fresh air.

WHY? The numbers of bird deaths attributed to domestic cats is staggering – over 2.6 billion per year. Keeping cats indoors could save a couple of billion birds annually, as well as millions of lizards, insects, frogs and other critters essential to maintaining our environment. Plus, you will be saving your furry friend from the dangers of being a cat outdoors – feline leukemia, being hit by a car, poisoned, or any of a number of other threats cats face when they are outside.

6 – GARDEN ORGANICALLY WITHOUT PESTICIDES OR HERBICIDES in your yard or garden. Encourage your township and state to mandate the same.  If you are planting native plants anyway, this mostly takes care of itself as you don’t need fertilizer or pest control, or even watering once the garden has taken hold.  Weed control is minimal – it’s mostly for removing invasive alien species.

WHY? Both herbicides and pesticides are toxic products.  Hand weeding is a much better solution than spraying herbicides – its completely non-toxic to wildlife and to you, and can be a very zen experience.  Using either herbicides or pesticides eliminates the insect population. This impacts birds, bats, frogs and other wildlife who rely on insects for survival by eliminating habitat used by insects and through toxic poisoning of all sorts of critters. Both also offer significant health risks to humans, so why gamble with this as well?  Find out more at the Great Healthy Yard Project.

7 – PUT UP BIRDHOUSES THAT ARE APPROPRIATE FOR AT LEAST ONE BIRD SPECIES WHICH IS DECLINING IN YOUR AREA and report your findings from your work to NestWatch. Even in fall and winter some birds need nesting boxes.  Owls and some hawks will start nesting in winter, so it’s good to get these boxes up soon.

WHY? Many birds have difficulty finding an adequate place to nest as their nesting areas are disappearing or made uninhabitable. As a result they don’t reproduce. Providing a nest box for a threatened or declining species in your area could make a real difference.  And, many of these winter nesting species will benefit your property – for example, owls can manage rodent populations. NestWatch is a Citizen Science project of Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and they use the information to track the populations and successes of species. So, reporting what good you are doing is not only fun, but a benefit to scientists and the birds.

8 –  AVOID USING RODENTICIDES outside.

WHY? Mice and other rodents will eat the poison and can poison their predators. It may be immediate when they are caught and eaten by owls, hawks or vultures, or sometimes over the long term as it builds up in their system. (This is what happens with DDT). Raptors are efficient hunters of rodents, and if they are breeding on your property, you are in luck because the chicks require a lot of mice! So let the raptors on your property be the rodent police!

We hope we have inspired you to take some action now.  Stay tuned as we have more ideas upcoming!  And, let us know if you have any ideas for actions you would like to see recommended.  Thank you for standing up for birds and being part of the solution!