Birds have been in the news recently. A recent study published in Science magazine found that bird populations in North America have plummeted to the tune of nearly three billion individuals since 1970. That’s a loss of nearly 30%.
Why does this matter?
Well, everything is connected. You simply can’t have a decline in one area without the whole system being affected.
Our own lives and health depend, in part, upon the health of the planet. So even from a completely self-interested perspective, it’s to our benefit to take good care of it. Where else are we going to live, right?
When an entire class of life is showing signs of stress and decline, it’s smart for us to pay attention. And even smarter for us to do what’s within our power to help.
So, without further ado, here are three easy and simple ways that we can help our feathered friends.
Support Bird-Friendly Coffee Growers
Many of our birds are migrants. They spend the breeding season in North America and overwinter in Central or South America.
Wherever they are, though, they need places to live that meet their needs for food, water, and shelter. Meanwhile, valuable wild habitats are shrinking because of human activity.
In our own yards, we have control over what we plant and how we manage our land. But how are we supposed to make a difference in countries where we don’t even live?
We can make a difference with the coffee in our cups.
Traditional coffee plantations grow their coffee in full sun since that method maximizes production. However, growing coffee as a monoculture in this way results in a very limited habitat.
Bird-friendly coffee, on the other hand, is grown within a diverse, multi-layered forest environment. This nearly quadruples the number of bird species supported. It’s certified organic and allows the growers to earn more for their crops, rewarding them for being good stewards of their land.
And the Smithsonian Institute, which created the bird-friendly standards, makes it easy to find. You can learn more about bird-friendly coffee and find multiple sources here.
Buy Duck Stamps
98% of proceeds from Duck Stamp sales go to buying or leasing migratory bird habitat. And that has a powerful, cumulative effect. Since 1934, more than $1 billion have been raised and more than six million acres of habitat protected with the help of Duck Stamp sales.
Duck Stamps make wonderful gifts for conservation-minded friends and, at $25 each, they won’t break the bank.
And they benefit more than waterfowl alone. According to this article about the history of the “Duck Stamp Act”:
“By the simple purchase of a Duck Stamp, millions of wildlife enthusiasts could . . . support a healthier future for the species that our national wildlife refuges harbor—which according to eBird, totals around 96% of all North American birds . . . Additionally, Duck Stamp dollars support healthy wetlands that: support diverse recreational activities, provide economic opportunities, purify our drinking water, promote wildlife observation, photography, and art, and shelter coastal communities from storm surges.”
If you would like to buy one or more Duck Stamps, you can do that here. (I get mine from my local post office.)
Almost all birds eat insects, so supporting robust insect populations also supports birds. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I recommend gardening with native species, partly because native plants support native wildlife in multi-functional ways.
But you may be starting from scratch. Or maybe you’re gradually introducing more native plants into an existing garden. Either way, you’re looking at a process that takes time. So, I thought it would be nice to give you something that you can use right away.
Simply avoid the use of insecticides. Most especially, please avoid systemic insecticides. Neonicotinoids fall into this category.
Systemic insecticides essentially become part of the plant and remain there for years. (They even taint the plant’s pollen and nectar, thus contributing to the decline of pollinators.)
You can make your dollars talk by making purchases only from nurseries who certify that they do not use systemic pesticides. To help you with that, here are five questions to ask to be sure you’re buying plants that are systemic pesticide-free.
For additional ways that you can help birds, there’s a great post on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website called Seven Simple Actions to Help Birds. Information-rich, it’s still a quick and easy read – and well worth the time.
Fascinating to watch and beautiful to listen to, birds are a real source of pleasure that’s freely available to us every day. But right now, they can really use a helping hand.
So, I hope you’ll join me in asking:
What can I do today to support my feathered friends?