Birding Today: Tips to save birds' lives

Common Loon

According to scientific data, three billion birds have been lost since 1970. As pollinators that contribute one out of three bites of food, we must act to save these valuable animals. Here are several ways to keep our propagators thriving:

Pesticides have been killing both birds and their protein food sources. Herbicides and pesticides are part of ground runoff that has been leaching into the Gulf of Mexico and creating the Dead Zone. This means that our shellfish food source is also being poisoned. Since the FDA has been giving the green light to chlorpyrifos and other carcinogens, it is in everyone's best interests to eat organic, which is pesticide free.

Nonnative cats are responsible for causing the demise of two billion birds per year. Boreal breeders are crossing the southern border with three billion strong and returning with 2.5 billion, which is dropping due to loss of habitat through drilling for oil and logging. Feral cat colonies also eat birds, as they are closer to the wild than domestics. Every animal has the right to a good life, including no more trap, neuter, and release. There are plans for catios on the internet to allow cats fresh air in a humane, controlled area.

Plastic is increasing and part of the ocean. Its degradation is four centuries, so it has time to kill pelagic breeding birds, shorebirds, sea animals, and seafood, as well as their offspring. We must reduce usage, including one-use plastics, recycle properly, and dispose of what cannot be reused. 

Plant native plants and trees to attract and feed birds with fruit and protein for breeding. Native birds are attracted to native plants for these reasons, which provide food, shelter, and nesting sites.

Draw shades during the day to cool your homes and hide sky and greenway reflections from birds, which appear as extended flyways. Break up reflections with screens, window decals, streamers, or ultraviolet sprays. Prompt local businesses to omit overnight lighting inside and outside during migration to keep birds undistracted during their long journey. This will help abate window strikes.

Incorporate bird friendly design into building remodels and new construction. Send a Bird-Safe Buildings Act letter to your Congressional leaders, H.R. 919. . Support the lead of sports teams with their bird-friendly LEED-Silver Bird-Friendly Certified stadiums.  They have seen a dramatic drop in window strikes.

Seventy-five percent of all coffee is sun grown, which destroys bird breeding forest habitat, using pesticides and fertilizer. Bird friendly shade grown coffee provides forest canopy and the coffee flavor proves its worth without the bitter taste. Actively seek bird friendly coffee that is Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center certified and support the return of your migratory birds to breed and winter in proper environment.

Report your bird findings on eBird, Breeding Bird Surveys, Project Feederwatch, and Audubon Christmas Bird Count. It helps the scientific community learn where birds thrive, as well as where they need help.

Donate to the cause in your legacy or leave a trust in your memory.

Deb Hirt is a wild bird rehabilitator and professional photographer living in Stillwater.

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