Top Ways to Help Birds
1. Learn About Birds
Learning your birds is the first step towards helping them! Luckily, there are some great Apps that you can download for free to help you get started. The Merlin Bird ID App by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is an excellent resource for learning to ID birds by sight, and the SongSleuth App is a great tool to help identify birds by sound. If you're wondering where to look for birds, eBird lets you find local birding hotspots and keeps you up-to-date with the latest sightings. Participating in Project FeederWatch is a great way to learn about the birds that visit your own backyard and support conservation. You can also join your local naturalist club, visit a nearby park, or check out an Important Bird Area. To help keep things fun, simple, and inexpensive, we have some gear recommendations for beginner birders to get you started.
2. Keep Cats Indoors
Domestic and feral cats catch and kill an estimated 2.6 billion birds in the US and Canada each year. Keeping cats indoors not only helps wild birds, it also protects our much-loved furry companions from being run over by vehicles, contracting feline immunodeficiency virus, picking up other pests like tapeworms or ticks, and experiencing other misfortunes.
3. Bird Friendly Windows
In North America an estimated 1 billion birds die each year when they unexpectedly collide with windows. At night, migrating birds are attracted by lighted windows, so closing curtains and turning off exterior illumination can make a big difference to birds. During the day, glass windows can reflect the sky or foliage from nearby trees, causing birds to fly into them. There are a number of products, including DIY tape, decals, screen, and various patterns that make the windows in your home visible to birds. More information is available from FeatherFriendly, the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), and AllAboutBirds.org.
4. Buy Bird Friendly
As consumers, we have an opportunity to make purchases that reduce our negative environmental impacts and/or support bird conservation. Buying locally grown or produced products whenever possible reduces our carbon footprint. Buying organic produce limits the amount of harmful pesticides and herbicides in the environment. Choosing products that minimize single-use plastics, both in their packaging and their construction also helps birds, particularly seabirds. Looking for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified paper products helps ensure that the timber used to create the product was harvested according to certain social, economic, and environmental standards, which helps forest birds. We can help grassland birds by choosing beef that has been certified by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef which is available here. Finally, buying organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee that has been certified as bird-friendly by the Smithsonian Institute is a way to support many species of migratory songbirds. Find a bird friendly coffee retailer near you here.
5. Create a Bird-Friendly Yard
As a gardener you can create a patch of habitat that supports both local and migratory birds. Planting native trees and shrubs, especially ones that produce fruit and berries, is a perfect place to start, and there are some great resources available to help you learn about native plants in your area and find native plant retailers near you. Being a 'lazy' gardener who doesn't rake all the leaves in fall, allows some dead branches to remain on the ground (when safe to do so), and doesn't deadhead seed plants in fall can also help birds find shelter in winter, nesting material in spring, and high protein insect prey all year around. Reducing the amount of lawn and refraining from pesticide and herbicide use is another way to support biodiversity and help birds. Finally, providing a source of cool, fresh water for birds during the heat of summer is another way to create a bird-friendly yard.
6. Support Conservation through Citizen Science
A Citizen Scientist is someone who submits their observations of wild birds to Citizen Science programs to help scientists monitor how wild bird populations are doing across North America. Doing Citizen Science can be easy, fun, and free when you download and use free Apps like eBird and iNaturalist. You can also participate in programs like the Great Backyard Bird Count or Project FeederWatch. There are many ways to participate, share your observations, learn from others, and make a difference by becoming part of the Citizen Science community.