If you have bird feeders in your yard, you know that every day brings the joy of connecting a little more with nature. But did you know that there are also conservation benefits to feeding wild birds?
What is conservation, anyway?
Conservation is the act of preserving, protecting, or restoring something — usually wildlife or some other facet of our natural environment. For birders, this most often revolves around the wild bird species that visit our yards. Whether you have sprawling acres or a small suburban balcony, you can transform your space into a wildlife habitat that supports birds, bees, butterflies, and other regional wildlife.
Providing high quality food like black oil sunflower seed, peanuts, fruit and a water source will keep your backyard birds returning daily, while making sure to clean feeders regularly will help keep visiting birds healthy. For more detailed instructions on how to properly clean feeders, start here.
Does conservation really work?
You bet! According to recent studies, “Birds that frequent feeders tend to be thriving, whereas many other species have [shown] declines over the past few decades.” Backyard bird feeding may even be helping Northern Cardinals to expand their natural territory!
Along with providing high quality food and keeping feeders clean, here are 5 ways you can help your backyard birds thrive every day.
1. Keep cats indoors.
Although your cat may love to roam, outdoor cats are responsible for millions of songbird deaths every year. Providing a cozy window spot overlooking your feeders will keep kitties entertained and birds safe. Or use an outdoor enclosure which allows cats to be outside without harming your feathered visitors. You can read more about keeping cats indoors at the American Bird Conservancy.
2. Help stop window collisions.
Windows are crucial for human beings, but deadly for wild birds! Reflections on glass can look just like open sky. Studies have estimated that up to a billion wild birds are killed in window collisions every year. Adding decals to your household windows is a great way to let the light in without putting your local avians in unnecessary danger. Pre-made decals are available in a variety of styles; if you’re more of a DIY fan, try making your own reusable decals out of fabric paint!
3. Plant a bird-friendly garden.
This is a win-win for birds, butterflies, bees and you! Plant flowers, shrubs and trees that provide food and shelter, such as sunflowers, elderberry and dogwoods. Native plants are good for the environment because they’re adapted to the local climate conditions; they don’t need excessive fertilizers or watering. Wildlife like birds and butterflies recognize native plants more readily, encouraging them to visit year-round. For ten great regional plant choices, check out Audubon’s selection or search their database for plants native to your neighborhood.
4. Know what to do with injured birds and babies.
In the spring, you may find a bird that looks as though it has fallen out of their nest. Often times these are actually fledgling birds that are learning to fly. Even though they still retain some baby features, you can often tell a fledgling by its ‘grown up’ feathers and stubby, feathered tail. Although they may look like they are orphaned, fledglings do not need our help and the parents are likely nearby. If you find a younger baby bird who’s eyes are still closed or does not have any feathers, or you find an injured bird, it is best to contact an experienced local wildlife rehabber. For a list of wildlife rehabbers in your area, contact your local department of wildlife conservation or try the Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory.
5. Contribute your observations.
Sign up to take part in Cornell’s Backyard Count and Feederwatch projects. These research projects provide annual and long-term data which ultimately contributes to our greater understanding of bird habitat and conservation.
Keeping birds safe and healthy not only helps birds, it helps the planet and helps us. Science has proven that connecting with nature is good for the heart and the soul.