Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Seven easy ways to help protect American bird populations

Birds often die after mistakenly eating plastic.
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
A recently published paper estimated that nearly 3 billion birds in the United States and Canada has fallen by 29 percent since 1970, meaning there are about 2.9 billion fewer birds in the sky right now than there were 50 years ago, with steep losses among even common birds like robins.

There are probably many causes for the drop, including habitat loss and pesticide use, the report says. Such issues would most effectively be addressed at the broader policy level, but the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has issued a list of seven simple actions anyone can take to help birds. Here's a brief overview:
  1. Up to 1 billion birds are estimated to die each year in the U.S. and Canada after hitting windows. Help birds detect windows by installing screens or breaking up the reflection with film, paint, string, or other visual cues.
  2. Keep your cats indoors or put them on a leash. Cats kill more than 2.6 billion birds in the U.S. and Canada each year, the top human-caused reason for bird deaths except for habitat loss.
  3. Add trees and plants to your lawn or garden that help feed birds or give them a place to nest or rest during migration.
  4. Avoid pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, which are lethal to birds. Glyphosate (found in Roundup) can also be toxic to wildlife. Birds can be exposed to pesticides directly or indirectly through the seeds or insects they consume.
  5. Drink coffee certified as "Bird-Friendly". That means the coffee plants were grown in the shade, which means the coffee farms didn't cut down the forests that birds and other wildlife depend on for shelter. More than 42 species of North American songbirds winter in coffee plantations, so drinking shade-grown coffee could affect bird populations in the U.S.
  6. Reduce single-use plastic usage and recycle what you do use. Birds often eat plastic, thinking it's food, which can kill them. 
  7. Help scientists with your bird observations. Monitoring bird populations is essential to protect them, but tracking bird populations is a huge challenge for scientists. So, many have crowdsourced the job with projects such as eBird, Project FeederWatch, a Christmas Bird Count, or a Breeding Bird Survey.

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