Migrating Birds Could Use a Helping Hand – Ten Ways People Can Protect Birds This Spring

Allen's Hummingbird by Glen Tepke
Allen's Hummingbird by Susan Beree

(Washington, D.C., April 21, 2011) As warmer temperatures begin to arrive, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) often gets asked how people can help birds. Toward that end, ABC has identified the top ten things people can do to aid or protect declining birds in their homes and yards.

10. Join a bird conservation group such as ABC—learn more about birds and support important conservation work.

9. Support bird-friendly legislation—Example:  HR 1643, a proposed bill that provides for bird-friendly federal buildings.

8. Keep feeders and bird baths clean to avoid disease and prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

7. Buy organic food and drink shade-grown coffee—increasing the market for produce grown without the use of pesticides, which can be toxic to birds and other animals, will reduce the use of these hazardous chemicals in the U.S. and overseas.

6. Reduce your carbon footprint—use a hand-pushed or electric lawnmower, carpool, use low energy bulbs and Energy Star appliances. Contact your energy supplier and ask them about purchasing your energy from renewable sources.

5. Donate old bird watching equipment such as binoculars or spotting scopes to local bird watching groups—they can get them to schools or biologists in other countries who may not have the resources they need.

4. Create backyard habitat—if you have a larger yard, create a diverse landscape by planting native grasses, flowers, and shrubs that attract native birds. You will be rewarded by their beauty and song, and will have fewer insect pests as a result.

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—and try to buy organic food when you can. Learn more at https://abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/toxins/what_you_can_do.html.

2. Prevent birds hitting your windows by using a variety of treatments to the glass on your home. Collisions with glass constitute the biggest source of bird mortality, as many as one billion each year. See ABC's new flyer at www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/collisions/pdf/collisions_flyer.pdf

1. Keep your cat indoors—this is best for your cat as well as the birds, as indoor cats live an average of three to seven times longer. Cats are not native to the U.S. and are responsible for hundreds of millions of bird deaths each year.  Some species have gone extinct because of cats! Even well fed cats kill birds, and bells on cats don't effectively warn birds of cat strikes.

According to ABC, birds need our help now more than ever.  In addition to the ongoing threat of loss of habitat, millions of birds are directly killed due to a number of different human-related causes. Scientists estimate that 300 million to one billion birds die each year from collisions with buildings.  Up to 50 million die from encounters with communication towers.  Another one million may die EACH DAY from attacks by cats left outdoors. Some of these deaths occur year-round but many occur during the peak spring and fall migrations. Some studies suggest that perhaps as many as half of all migrating birds do not make it back to spring and summer grounds, succumbing to various threats on either end of the journey.

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

A federal government study reports that over 20 percent of the U.S. population – 48 million people – participates in bird watching.  Of that total, about 42 percent (20 million people) actually travel to see birds. Birders spend about $36 billion annually in pursuit of their pastime.  The top five bird watching states by percentage of total population are: Montana (40%); Maine (39%); Vermont (38%); Minnesota (33%); and Iowa (33%).