Yesterday for National Bird Day I wrote a blog about the many ways that we can help our feathered friends. This morning I had a wonderful letter from a former student just setting up her pottery studio and buying her first home. She wants to help but her finances, like many of you, are limited. So how can she help and how can you?
Here are some ideas that are either free or cost little:
Put out bowls of water. Think of the depth of a bird bath. You don’t want the bowls to be too deep. I use my pottery seconds and have about nine or ten bowls lined up. I clean them and fill them often. Some are big enough for the birds to have a bath. It is wonderful to look out on a hot summer day and see them splashing about!
You can speak up or volunteer to work with groups that try to stop cruelty to animals. You can also help educate your neighbours. Know someone who goes fishing and uses weights? Suggest they use rubber ones instead of lead. Educate them on how lead poisoning is killing birds.
Adopt a block or a piece of highway. You don’t have to do it formally but help clean up. People still toss their food bags into the culverts and birds often go after these and are hit by moving vehicles and killed in the process.
Make your windows safe from bird strike. You can do this by simply not washing them during the key periods of bird migration. Or you can use masking or painter’s tape to make a few lines. You do not need to purchase fancy decals.
Go vegetarian. Not eating meat helps the environment. Cook your own beans instead of buying them in a tin. It is a whole lot cheaper (if you have the time). And you can ‘go vegetarian’ for a few days a week. It will help the planet and in turn help all the animals.
Lead by example. If you are looking for a new pet, adopt an animal. Maybe you want to help by fostering.
If you are going to plant a garden, why not include some sunflowers and let them dry? or other flowers that attract the bees, butterflies, and hummers.
One site that I found suggested that we be careful with the language that we use. They said that language plays a very important part in shaping the view of animals. Do not use words like ‘chicken’ or ‘pig headed’.
Do not go to entertainment that is cruel to animals such as the circus.
Urge your city councillor to leave green spaces and plant trees.
Find out the contact information for your nearest wildlife rehabbers. If you see an injured animal, learn what to do and phone them. You might also want to write down or put in your phone the number of the nearest veterinary clinic.
For the past week I have been posting information on how we can all join in and make our environment friendlier to birds. The tips and the ongoing discussion with my chatters on the Cornell RTH FB page have been enriching. Those posts were a way of remembering J1, the eldest chick of Big Red and Arthur, who died a week ago today after what is believed to be a window strike at Weill Hall. J1 was a super large very maternal bird who could be hawk-fierce when required or a gentle goof pulling the tail feathers of her brothers if they sat on a bar above her. She loved playing soccer with pinecones and taking baths in the puddles after a hot day in Ithaca. Her birth brought joy to all and as she grew most recognized that she would be a gentle but firm mother like Big Red. Because of COVID-19 and the escalating deaths and subsequent civil unrest, her death sparked a deep sense of loss not only within her hawk family but also with the BOGs in Ithaca and those who love this family around the world. Big Red and Arthur led the two remaining chicks away from Tower Road and the business of the campus near Bradfield and Weill out to Holey Cow. Just looking it appears that the distance is around a mile but I could be all wrong. The area is rural farmyard territory as opposed to urban with its buildings, streets, and cars. And the parents have kept them near the barns with the cows and sheep and the fields where Big Red’s mate, Ezra, used to hunt. One evening all four took part in a team hunting event. Big Red from one side of the pine tree and Arthur on the other would fly into the tree chasing a squirrel down for the two juveniles to hunt it. The move has caused the chicks to slow way down and stop random flying stunts between buildings. You say, “Did Big Red and Arthur know that J1 had died?” My answer to you is “Of course, they knew.” Would they have wished that Cornell University would have earlier installed window reflective glass on their buildings? Absolutely. And so, that is why I am writing to you tonight. To introduce you to ways that you can help birds in your own neighborhood.
Most of you will know some of these points but you might have forgotten or maybe you didn’t know. I certainly didn’t know all of them and tonight I find that I am still learning. So here goes:
Make all of your windows bird friendly by installing strips on the outside so there is no bird strike. Check your local wildlife or nature centre. They often have this available in their shop.
Speaking of windows. Governments in Australia have announced that all buildings will now be required to use reflective glass. It is estimated that 1 million birds die from window strikes annually. Supporters of the new reflective glass windows believe that they can save 90% of the birds with this new measure. Write to anyone in your community who will listen!
Bird-friendly coffee. Almost everyone reading this blog will drink some kind of coffee a day. But, as I have learned recently, not all coffee is the same. There are now many organic beans and blends as well as fair trade coffees but if you want to be the most environmentally friendly with your cup of java, then you must find bird friendly coffee. And this is not easy! The Smithsonian must certify the coffee to be grown under shade so that the forests are not cleared to qualify beyond being organic and fair trade. So look for the labelling and ask your local roaster to get beans brought in for you or you can order on line.
Water. The summers are getting warmer. The heat impacts all of us. One simple way to help the birds is to put out bowls of water so that they have a fresh drink and a place to have a bath and cool off. You don’t need to go down and buy a fancy bird bath. Readers of my postings have suggested checking your local thrift store for bowls or even bird baths. Many use the dishes that go under pots. One even suggested the plastic liners for paint trays (new, of course). Since I work with clay, we have an array of shallow bowls outside and every day around 4pm the little song birds line up for a drink and a splash. One day the largest of our local Grackle community decided to have a bath. It was sweet.
Cats. Cats are one of the most prominent dangers to birds. Where I live it is illegal to let your cats outside. But in many parts of the world this is not the case.
Herbicides and pesticides. One major birdseed company in the US (who also supplied herbicides and pesticides for gardens and lawns) was discovered to have poison seed in their product several years ago. Make sure you know where your birdseed comes from BUT also let your garden be natural. All of the treatments for lawns are very dangerous to animals.
Mouse and rat poison. Rodenticide. Do not use poisons to trap mice and rats. They mice and rats eat the poison, get sluggish, and are easy for the raptors to catch. Then they die. It has been clearly proven that raptors are much better at keeping down the rat population than poisons. Tell anyone you know not to use these products that stop the blood from coagulating. In fact, cats can also die if they eat a poisoned mouse or rat.
Plant a tree. During this very chaotic spring, people have been seeking calm. Trees and gardens offer places for peaceful contemplation. They also help the biosphere. So instead of paving your patio, consider creating a rustic treed space that is bird friendly instead.
Slow down. When you drive slow down. It will cause less deaths from window strike.
You might want to keep gear in your vehicle to help with injured birds. This can include but is not limited to gloves, a secure cage, and soft blanket. Know the contact numbers for your local wildlife rehabilitation centre.
These are not the only ways but they are a beginning. You might want to think about ordering the bookthat was recommended to me today. It is Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard.