How to Protect Birds From a Deadly Spring

March 31, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

By ecoRI News staff

Ground nesting species such as the wood thrush are vulnerable to domesticated cats. (Cornell University)Spring is a deadly time for birds, according to George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC). He said scientists estimate that 300 million to 1 billion birds die each year from collisions with buildings, many during arduous migrations in unfamiliar environments.

Another 10 million die or so die annually from encounters with communication towers and wind turbines, and up to 6 million may die each day from attacks by cats left outdoors. These deaths occur year-round, but many occur during spring and fall migration, Fenwick said.

One in five Americans engage in bird watching, so the ABC provided some tips on how you can help save the birds this spring:

Keep your cat indoors. This is best for your cat as well as for the birds, as indoor cats live an average of three to seven times longer. Cats are responsible for an estimated 2.4 billion bird deaths annually. 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.

Prevent birds from hitting your windows. You can reduce this problem at home by applying a variety of window treatments. For example, bird tape is a proven solution that is inexpensive and long-lasting. Birds most prone to fatal collisions at home windows or glass doors include the ruby-throated hummingbird and wood thrush.

Eliminate pesticides from your yard. Even those pesticides that aren’t 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 and their young. Also, be sure not to garden with neonicotinoid-coated seeds, or neonics, which are lethal to songbirds as well as to bees and other invertebrates.

Create habitat using native plants. When you garden with plants that evolved locally, you supply native insects and their larvae with food, which in turn 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 will have fewer insect pests as a result.

Reduce your carbon footprint. While all forms of energy use impact birds, small individual actions can add up and 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.

Donate old bird-watching equipment. Binoculars and 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.

Keep bird feeders and bird baths clean. If you feed the birds, make sure you aren’t accidentally allowing the spread of disease. Disinfect feeders and baths, and change water regularly or use a drip system to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

“Protecting and helping birds is not only the right thing to do,” Fenwick said, “it is also good for the economy and the future of our environment. Birds are invaluable as controllers of insect pests, as pollinators of crops, and as dispersers of native plant seeds. They also generate tremendous economic revenues through the pastimes of bird feeding and bird watching.”

A federal government study reports that about 20 percent of the U.S. population (47 million) participates in bird watching. The top five birdwatching states by percentage of total population are: Vermont (39 percent), Wisconsin (33), West Virginia (33), Wyoming (31) and Alaska (30). The states with the greatest raw number of birders are: California (4.9 million), New York (3.3), Florida (3), Pennsylvania (2.7) and Texas (2.3).

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