Bird losses over the last 50 years have been devastating for hundreds of species, affecting both backyard songbirds and long-distance migrants. Reversing such a massive decline will require action at all scales, from national policies to protect birds to large-scale habitat conservation. Individual actions can also help. Have a look at these seven simple ways you can get involved. Our collective efforts can really make a difference!
Make Windows Safer Up to 1 billion birds die each year after hitting windows in the United States alone. The problem is that by day, birds perceive reflections in glass as habitat they can fly into. By night, migratory birds drawn in by city lights are at high risk of colliding with buildings.
Keep Cats Indoors Cats are estimated to kill more than 2.4 billion birds annually in the U.S. This is the #1 human-caused reason for the loss of birds, aside from habitat loss. Cats can make great pets, but more than 100 million feral and pet cats now roam in the United States. These nonnative predators instinctively hunt and kill birds even when well fed.
What you can do: Save birds and keep cats healthy by keeping cats indoors or creating an outdoor “catio.” You can also train your cat to walk on a leash. Learn more about ways to keep indoor cats happy.
Reduce Lawns, Plant Natives More than 10 million acres in the United States were converted to developed land from 1982 to 1997, reducing the number of places birds can raise their young and safely rest during migration. Lawns and pavement don’t offer enough food or shelter for many birds and other wildlife. With more than 63 million acres of lawn in the U.S. alone, there’s huge potential to support wildlife by replacing lawns with native plantings.
Avoid Pesticides More than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied in the United States each year. The nation’s most widely used insecticides, called neonicotinoids or “neonics,” are lethal to birds and to the insects that birds consume. Common weed killers used around homes, such as 2, 4-D and glyphosate (used in Roundup), can be toxic to wildlife, and glyphosate has been declared a probable human carcinogen.
Drink Bird-Friendly Coffee Three-quarters of the world’s coffee farms grow their plants in the sun, destroying forests that birds and other wildlife need for food and shelter. Sun-grown coffee also often requires using environmentally harmful pesticides and fertilizers. On the other hand, shade-grown coffee preserves a forest canopy that helps migratory birds survive the winter. Too few consumers are aware of the problems of sun coffee. Those who are aware may be reluctant to pay more for environmentally sustainable coffee.
What you can do: Look for Bird-Friendly coffee, a certification from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center that includes organic trade standards. Find out where to buy Bird-Friendly coffee.
Protect the Planet from Plastics It’s estimated that 4,900 million metric tons of plastic have accumulated in landfills and in our environment worldwide, polluting our oceans and harming wildlife such as seabirds, whales, and turtles that mistakenly eat plastic, or become entangled in it. Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, and 91% of plastics created are not recycled. Studies show that at least 80 seabird species ingest plastic, mistaking it for food.
Watch Birds, Share What You See The world’s most abundant bird, the Passenger Pigeon, went extinct, and people didn’t realize how quickly it was vanishing until it was too late. Monitoring birds is essential to help protect them, but tracking the health of the world’s 10,000 bird species is an immense challenge. To understand how birds are faring and recommend appropriate conservation actions, scientists need people to report what they’re seeing.