For the Birds

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.”

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Our bird-friendly yard, filled with native plants, attracts many species, including wild turkeys.

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.

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We don’t have cats, but this marauder thinks the hummingbird feeder is fair game.

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.

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We always spot bald eagles during our Christmas Bird Count in the Durango, Colorado, area.

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)

31 thoughts on “For the Birds

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  1. I was stunned at how few birds were frequenting our property. With some friendly changes we now have blue jays, woodpeckers, turkeys, lots of quail and some occasional interlopers. I will heed your advice for the birds.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I believe the nature preserve near us is involved in this bird watching count. I never thought to join in, but I’ll look into it. Thanks for the idea. I may not adore fluttery birds per se, but I don’t want them to go away either. Just don’t make me touch one, ok?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Something about birds flying into windows, this is something I’ve observed (in the UK, so might not apply to yours, though there’s a chance it does), some birds learn what glass is, or rather what it means. It tends to be young birds that fly into glass.And some birds that fly into glass are actually chased into it by birds that know what it is. Something to think about: not all bird casualties are caused by humans: many are caused by birds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true that birds kill other birds, but that has always been true, so the population declines are not due to that, especially since predator numbers have also dropped. Window strikes are a real issue. We’ve had good luck with using decals to reduce mortality at our house. Bright city lights shining upward during migration also cause problems. Many issues to be addressed, and we can certainly improve conditions for all wildlife – and for ourselves at the same time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I was just talking to someone about that. She works with an environmental group and she asked me if I noticed how many fewer bugs are hitting our windshields than the last time we lived in the Midwest. I definitely had, but didn’t really consider the ramifications of it. Most people would say “good riddance”, but they’re not realizing what a vital role most of those bugs serve.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a small feeder outside of our apartment kitchen window which we feed the neighborhood birds. While I have never join a bird watcher group or gone birding it is something that would interest me. With the Adirondack Mountains just a 30 minute drive it is something I should do. On another note people just do not seem to understand that as nature goes so must the human race. It is hard for me to understand why we find this so hard to understand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we are part of nature, too. It does astonish me that people aren’t concerned about the current mass extinctions, as if we are somehow immune to becoming one of the casualties.

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