It’s common for us to take birds for granted. We may catch a glimpse of one or two on the course of our daily routine, but most times we don’t give much thought to our feathered friends unless we’re out on a nature hike or trail where we can see them in their natural habitat. The truth is that we should all be concerned about them, because birds are a good barometer of our environmental health. And in the last forty years, most bird populations have shown sharp decreases. Their biggest problems are climate change (melts winter breeding grounds and disrupts plant cycles which influences food sources), unplanned development and urban sprawl, pesticides, the conversion of grasslands to chemical-farming fields, logging and oil and energy exploration.
Who has the potential to be the hero in this dire situation? You and me in our own backyards. It turns out that birds can adapt and even thrive in a changing environment if they have viable recourse for shelter and food. Humans can help them survive and flourish by creating mini-ecological systems in our backyards. We have the potential to help the birds survive their drastically changing environments with a little thought and a few supplies.
1. Plant Native Shrubs and Trees
The fall and spring are excellent times to plant native shrubs and trees. Native food sources will attract native birds and will help the local environment and the web of life that springs from a balanced ecology. Even planting something as common as an oak tree will provide acorns and shelter for local wildlife and can teach young people about growing and caring for the natural environment.
2. No Pesticides
It has been a popular piece of modern gardening to fear insects and wildlife as having a bad impact on our gardens and flower beds. For birds, those insects are an important food source, and they need those insects to be pesticide free. Pesticides affect the thickness of egg shells and impact health and development in baby birds. If you use natural solutions in the garden, no harmful chemicals will be passed on to the birds.
3. Leave Flower Seeds
Don’t pull the dead stems and dried seeds out of the garden! It may look ugly to you, but during the winter months those seeds and dried rose hips will be a meal for a hungry bird. Leave them be and watch them disappear into hungry bird gullets.
4. Leave Dead Wood
If you have a fallen tree or branch that isn’t a hazard to your family, leave it down for the birds. The dead wood will attract insects which will provide them a food source. Also, the fallen branches can catch leaves and form shelters for birds during cold and inclement weather.
5. Think High Fat
Small window feeders will fit any size house or apartment and black oiled sunflower seeds are a good beginning food for transforming your yard into a bird haven. However, to attract a wider variety of birds, consider putting out high-fat foods like suet and peanut butter. This is particularly important during winter months when some bird species are migrating and need the extra energy. Adding fruit or berries will also bring more birds to your yard. Consider erecting a variety of different feeding stations to accommodate different sizes of avian and their varying taste preferences. Also, don’t forget a water source!
6. A Word about Squirrels
Squirrels are crafty and persistent raiders of bird seed. Bird enthusiasts either hate or enjoy them, and they’re ubiquitous no matter where you live. There are two approaches to dealing with them. First, some people choose to give them their own feeders in the hopes that they’ll leave the other bird seed alone. The second approach is to invest in squirrel-proof feeder, a pricier solution but more effective for your peace of mind. There’s simply no way to avoid them.