Things you can do to help the birds
by John L. Turner
1. Drink shade grown coffee – most coffee produced today is “sun-grown” coffee which is produced in sterile, monoculture environments in which the rain forest has been clear-cut and the existing tree canopy removed, thereby making habitat inhospitable for most wildlife species. In contrast, shade grown coffee is grown beneath an intact tree canopy which provides habitat to hundreds of bird and mammal species, not to mention butterflies and other wildlife species.
2. Buy a duck stamp annually – officially known as the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, the “duck stamp” is one of the most successful conservation initiatives ever conceived. About 96% of each $15 stamp goes directly toward the purchase of land. Since its inception the sale of duck stamps has generated more than $750 million, resulting in the preservation of approximately 5.3 million acres of critical wildlife habitat that are part of the National Wildlife Refuge system.
3. Keep your cat(s) indoors – the approximately 100 million feral and free-roaming pet cats in the country kill hundreds of millions of birds and small mammals each year. While there is little you can do to prevent feral cat predation, you can play a role in reducing free-roaming cat predation — by keeping your pet cat(s) indoors.
4. Support conservation organizations – local, regional, and national conservation organizations, which play such a vital role in achieving so many successes at protecting the environment, simply would not exist without the financial support of individuals who care about conservation. Support them!
5. Conduct citizen science – participating in the Christmas Bird Count, the Breeding Bird Census, Project Feeder Watch or one of several other data gathering initiatives is an important way to contribute to science. These programs have been instrumental in broadening our understanding of basic aspects regarding bird populations, such as population trends and changes in distribution.
6. Become involved in the political process – it’s a simple but under-appreciated fact that elected officials, especially local ones, react to public opinion. If they get letters, phone calls, or comments advocating for a certain conservation action (e.g. preserving a specific parcel of land as parkland) they often will respond. So start communicating!
7. Limit your use or don’t use pesticides – pesticides are designed to kill things and even when used according to label can kill unintended targets. Use alternatives to pesticides and make changes to the conditions in your lawn and garden to eliminate the need for pesticides. In addition, there are many other lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your environmental footprint. These include recycling and buying products made from recycled material, composting, and using energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.
8. Put decals on windows that birds are flying into – several hundred million birds die or are injured flying into windows each year, being tricked by their transparency or reflected images. If you have a problem with birds flying into windows at your home, you can buy window decals that allow birds to see windows for what they are. One such company that manufactures decals very effective at reducing and/or eliminating mortality is WindowAlert.
9. Wear your binoculars proudly and leave your “Birder Calling Card” – when stopping to eat or pump fuel while visiting a popular birding spot keep your binoculars visible around neck so that business patrons know why you’re there. Your binoculars serve as a signal to them to care about bird conservation in their local community since they are benefitting economically from the presence of birds. Also leave a “Birder’s Calling Card” along with your tip for service. These cards, sheets of which are available on some bird conservation websites, reinforce the point that you are spending your disposable income at that establishment because there are bird-rich natural areas nearby that attracted you there. Merely download a sheet, cut out the cards, and put a few in your wallet or pocketbook.
10. Be an enthusiast for Birds – we underestimate our ability to influence others, and fail to realize how impressionable children can be. Talk about the amazing aspects of birds – their fascinating migratory feats, complex songs and calls, and well developed senses and coordination – and watch how your behavior piques an interest in others for birds. Take some kids on a trip to watch birds!