By Eilene Lyon
The latest issue of Living Bird Magazine from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a clarion call to bird and nature lovers everywhere. I urge you to at least read the editorial “The choir must become a force for change.”
Somewhere between 45 and 50 million Americans say they are bird watchers. But these enthusiasts don’t speak as one voice, though they number more than gun-owning households, members of either major political party, or AARP members. In other words, bird watchers aren’t organized in their lobbying efforts.
Bird population declines have many causes, and are largely preventable – if individuals and their government representatives are willing to take action. Feral and free-roaming pet cats take a huge toll, for example. Here are seven simple actions you can take to help birds, even if you choose not to get involved in the politics.
Of course habitat loss – here, on wintering grounds south of the U.S., and on breeding grounds to the far north – reduces new recruits into bird populations and diminishes survival rates. And these bird population crashes truly are “the canary in the coal mine.”
If you would like to learn more about bird watching, while contributing to meaningful citizen science, do consider participating in the Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. This long-running study has helped document declining bird populations. It used to cost $5 to participate, but now is free for everyone.
Christmas Bird Counts take place throughout North America and are done on one day between December 14 and January 5. Depending on where you live, you may be able to participate in several. If spending a full- or half-day driving and walking to count birds is not possible, you can join in the Great Backyard Bird Count instead.
I’ve been doing this count for many years and always have a great time (even on those ridiculously cold days!) Our local bird club hosts a count circle and we all get together that evening for a big pizza party where we tabulate our results.
I hope you’ll give some thought about what you can do – for the birds.
Feature image: House finch on bird feeder (E. Lyon)