At times environmental issues seem overwhelming, especially with this year’s disheartening news of us losing 3 billion birds since 1970 and the National Audubon Society report on climate change putting 389 bird species on the brink of extinction if something is not done. The frustration makes most people sit back and feel helpless and believe that there is little that one person can do to make things better.
The good news is there are many ways you can help our birds and the environment without waiting for any elected officials or government agencies to do it for us. By taking the initiative we can have an almost immediate positive effect on the natural world around us. Rember, if you manage to do even one or two of these things it will have an immediate positive impact on our bird population.
1-Create a wildlife habitat in your backyard, schoolyard or anywhere
With the incredible loss of natural places here in New Jersey, creating a backyard wildlife habitat using native plants can mean survival for many of our birds. By providing food, water, shelter and places to raise young you can have an important positive impact on all birds and relieve some of the stresses caused by cclimate change.
2-Introduce a child to birding and nature
Helping our next generation to learn about birds is critical in keeping our children connected to nature. Teaching them to love nature the way you do will enable them to grow up to be caring and nurturing adults who will define the future of our environment. So take a kid out birding, help start a bird club in schools, or with Scout groups
3-Become a community activist
Our local cities and towns need environmentally minded people to get involved in municipal commissions, planning boards and schools, to have more environmentally sound decisions made for everyone. So get out there and be heard and get involved to help create a better and healthier community for both you and our birds.
4-Keep you cats indoors
Nobody loves animals more than me, so for the sake of the cats and the lives of millions of birds please keep your cats indoors. Your cats and the birds will thank you for it.
5-Join and be active in a local conservation group
Any group is only as strong as its members, so get off the couch and ask how you can help your favorite conservation organization,and join up! There is strength in numbers.
6-Drink shade grown coffee
One cup of shade-grown coffee will preserve more than two square feet of rainforest — and the birds that inhabit the trees. So make sure your daily cup of coffee is organic and shade grown and even better yet be sure it is Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) certified, which represents a gold standard in ethical and sustainable coffee business.
7- Recommend to your town, school system and whoever will listen to use native plants in the landscape
Our native plants are the foundation to a healthy bio-diverse bird habitat. You can have an almost instant positive impact on your environment by planting native plants in your backyard and anywhere and everywhere you can. Not only our birds, but our native bees and butterflies will also thank you for it.
8-Part with plastics
Finally this may be the year New Jersey does away with plastic bags. The first plastic bags were produced in 1957, according to Worldwatch Institute, and we now throw away 100 billion a year. Many eventually wash into the ocean to join oceanic garbage patches, drifting gyres of trash that spread over huge sea areas. Every year the floating “bladders” of these bags kill hundreds of thousands of seabirds – along with sea turtles and marine mammals – not to mention our nesting Osprey and Bald Eagles
9-Keep pesticides out of your yard, parks and school grounds
It is near insanity to plant flowers, shrubs, and trees for our birds and then douse them in toxic waste, but that is what many gardeners do by using pesticides at home. Since Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” was published five decades ago, pesticide use in North America has grown to exceed 1.1 billion pounds annually. Roughly 8 percent of that is applied to yards and gardens. One particular lawn-care pesticide, diazinon, has been implicated in more than 150 mass bird die-offs. At the same time, U.S. researchers estimate that agricultural use kills 67 million birds each year. Pesticides also cause longer-term, potentially lethal effects ranging from eggshell thinning to neurological damage, and may be linked to human food allergies.
10- Prevent Bird Collisions with Your Windows
Collisions are one of the most frequent causes of bird deaths. Birds see nature reflected in the window or mistake houseplants inside the building for outdoor plants and fly into the glass. Putting up curtains or window decals helps make the window visible to birds.
11- Provide Water
It’s very tough for birds to find water when its below freezing. Filling your birdbath with warm water in the morning or getting a heated birdbath will provide water for everything from raptors to wrens.
12 – Feed the birds and leave your bird houses up all winter
Feeding your birds a good quality seed and suet can help them through a tough winter. Don’t forget to also put out some fruit and mealworms for birds like Carolina wrens and Mockingbirds that have a real tough time. Also don’t forget to keep your feeders and ground under the feeders clean to keep birds happy and healthy.
Remember the birdhouses that are used for spring nesting will also be used by Chickadees, Woodpeckers and all cavity nesting birds to keep warm and cozy through the coming winter. So if you have some leave them up. If not get a few up soon.
13- Don’t Clean Up!
Birds need the natural seeds and insects that are in your leaf letter and garden litter. So whatever you do learn to be a sloppy gardener! You will help birds more than you know.
14- Protect and save every bit of natural habitat we have left!
Don’t evert let anyone tell you that a small patch of woods or meadows does not matter! Small patches of natural habitat are used by birds for a migratory stop-over and for nesting, so when a politician tells you that it does not matter let them know they are very wrong. And then work to save it!
15- Urge local towns to create No-Mow Zones in local parks
Even small No-Wow Zones create great habitat for not only birds but also for Butterflies and Pollinators. They also save energy, manpower and money, something local officials will love!
It all goes without saying that we all need to work together to stem the tide of climate change. But lets not forget that conservation begins at home. By trying as many of these bird friendly recommendations as you can, you will change the environment around you and eventually the world. If you have other ideas that help our local environment let me know. You can e-mail me at Greatauk4@aol.com