Yesterday between rain showers I took my good dogs on a walk to a nearby park to check on the status of the bluebird boxes I helped install a couple of years ago. At least one pair of bluebirds has already taken up residence and laid a trio of pale blue eggs. Another box had a beautiful nest inside carefully composed of green mosses for the base and topped with a soft blanket of animal hair. Not sure whose construction materials I was admiring. Also removed more than a handful of twiggy wren nests left over in the boxes from last season. The American Bird Conservancy has identified 10 other ways you can aid or protect declining bird populations:
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. Even well-fed cats kill birds, and bells on cats don’t effectively warn birds of cat strikes.
2. Prevent birds from hitting your windows by using a variety of treatments on the glass in your home. Visit abcbirds.org for more.
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.
4. Create backyard habitat. If you have a larger yard, create a diverse landscape by planting native plants and grasses that attract native birds. You will be rewarded by their beauty and song, and you’ll have fewer insect pests as a result.
5. Donate old bird watching equipment such as binoculars or spotting scopes to your local bird watching group, who can get them to schools of biologists in other countries who may not have the resources they need.
6. Reduce your carbon footprint. Use a hand-pushed or electric lawnmower, carpool, use low-energy light bulbs and Energy Star appliances. Contact your energy supplier and ask them about purchasing your energy from renewable sources.
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, will reduce the use of these hazardous chemicals. Shade coffee plantations maintain large trees that provide essential habitat for wintering songbirds.
8. Keep feeders and bird baths clean to avoid disease and to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
9. Support bird-friendly legislation. Example: HR 4797, a proposed bill that provides for bird-friendly federal buildings.
10. Join a bird conservation group to learn more about birds and to support important conservation work.