Protect the Birds!


Whether you feed them or simply like to watch them, you can help keep wild birds safe.

By FamilyTime

 

If you have a yard or live on the edge of a park, most likely you hear and see birds near your windows. Depending on where you live, these birds may be year-round residents or seasonal visitors that migrate in the fall and spring.

A lot of bird enthusiasts find watching birds at feeders endlessly fascinating and rig the feeders so that they’re easy to watch from a kitchen or living room window. Well stocked feeders welcome birds into our yards — and if you keep them filled all summer long, the birds keep coming.

Although the count is not exact, reliable estimates are that the continental United States is home to 20 billion birds. Their numbers are highest in the fall, before the southward migration begins. They are lowest in the spring, before eggs are laid and chicks hatched.

Meet a Bird’s Needs

Songbirds in particular appeal to the backyard birder. They fill the morning with tremulous birdsong and add flashes of color to backyard gardens and trees.

Birds respond to habitats with brush, shrubbery, hedges and trees to provide a choice of  perch and nest-building elevations. When you plan your garden, think of the birds and provide them with some greenery for shelter.

Beyond shelter, birds need water and food. Any sort of rough-floored birdbath filled with just a few inches of fresh water supplements the hydration birds get from rain puddles, streams and ponds. If you maintain your birdbath, you will be rewarded with scores of birds congregating to splash and shake their feathers.

Change the water every few days to prevent it from becoming “standing water” that might attract mosquitoes. Or, better yet, install a pump or gentle water agitator to mimic the water in a slow-moving stream. Wash out the bird bath every few days with a strong hose and a scrubber.

Finally, birds need food. In the summer and fall there is ample sustenance — seeds, berries, and insects — yet fully stocked birdfeeders are always welcome. Birds are only too happy to munch on supplied birdseed, which augments the rest of their diet.

Keep Birds Safe

While squirrels are not a threat to birds, they are a threat to their food supply. What backyard bird enthusiast hasn’t cursed the aggressive squirrels that raid the birdfeeders?

Pole-mounted birdfeeders are most effective against squirrels. Install them so that the feeders are about five feet off the ground. The base of the feeder should be protected further with a large cone-shaped baffle, 18 to 20 inches in diameter.

Locate the poles far enough from shrubbery and trees to keep squirrels from leaping from one or the other — at least 10 or 12 feet.

Finally (and perhaps most importantly), keep cats indoors. While estimates vary wildly, no one denies that cats kill millions of birds every year. Some experts put the number in the billions. A conservative ballpark figure is 500 million birds annually, while a more staggering guesstimate is 3.7 billion.

Why Bother with Birds?

Birds are far more than decorative. They help pollinate and spread seed throughout gardens, fields, orchards, plains and forests; they eat untold numbers of insects; and they dispose of carrion. Our world would be in trouble without birds.

Yet, worldwide, more than 1,200 species are facing extinction, according to Audubon Magazine. For those of us who care, it behooves us to do even a small part in keeping our indigenous birds safe, fed, and sheltered. And they’re such fun to watch!