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For Immediate Use                                                                                               Contact: Alison Sheehey, (760) 378-2531
November 17, 2011                                                                                                             

How you can help birds

Every day birds are challenged by a myriad of human caused environmental assaults. From habitat loss, global climate change, alternative energy development, pesticides, window strikes, open pipes, fires, monofilament entanglement, litter, outdoor cats, poaching, deforestation, vehicle collisions, perforated sign posts, barbed wire fences, water pollution, eutropication of waterways, and on an on. With the exception of habitat loss and climate change most of these problems won't generally cause the extinction of species by themselves, but cumulatively they are taking their toll.

Some people find many of these topics controversial because they hold sacred some economic or social item and they feel that the blame is being laid solely at their feet. Problems are made at the community level but it takes action by the individual to find solutions. This is true for all but small minority of people who find nothing good about nature and allow their individual or corporate behavior to cause massive amounts of harm. We can do little about these types of behavior except to pass laws to force a bit of altruism.

For the other 99.999% who fall in the category that care but feel helpless, don't despair, you can make a difference in the lives of birds and other animals while enriching your life with an abundance of nature. Birds matter as does every individual human; let's spend a few seconds out of each day making birds lives better so all of us remain enhanced by the magic of those with feathers (and fur). So with that let's look at some of the problems and see how we can all work together (as individuals) to collectively help birds.

habitat loss

This is a big problem and many people who would never think of harming any creature will readily buy a new home in a brand new subdivision. This helps to promote sprawling communities and pushes agriculture onto marginal native land. The next time you think about moving, look to move toward the center of your community and fixing up an older home. This action can have the added benefit of revitalizing city centers and bringing businesses back to the community instead of being dominated by huge box stores on the outskirts of cities.

global climate change

Too big, I can't do anything about this you say? Yes, we must all do our part and not tomorrow, today. First, reduce your energy use in the home and the car. This saves you money and helps immediately. Open windows and doors on temperate days to fill the house with fresh air. Set your thermostats at 68Ί or lower in winter and 78° or higher in summer. Make sure every vehicle trip is done with consideration for energy saving. Shop before or after work instead of making special trips on a non-work days. Tune up your vehicle. Carpool to work and play. Talk to your company about telecommuting. Install solar on your roof.

alternative energy development

This is a huge problem if we don't seriously look at alternative energy sources and faze out using fossil fuels as quickly as possible. It is also a huge problem if not properly sited for migrating animals: birds, bats and maybe even butterflies. Desert animals adapted to live in harsh environments by using large tracts of land to eke out a living, covering up sensitive habitat without thought to their needs is not a solution. Transmission towers in corridors through the desert add nesting platforms for ravens and hawks which then eat sensitive desert animals. Centralized power grids are also easy targets for massive power disruptions. So how can we help?

First, propose large scale energy development on land that has already been disturbed, old factories, housing developments that never were completed, old farmland that had water or other problems that removed it from production. Oppose wind development on ridge tops and canyons that are migrant bird corridors. Ask your state and federal representatives to write legislation offering energy development credits for residential solar. This is good for many reasons but also decentralizes power so that massive power outages won't happen.

CHEMICAL Pollution

Buy organic and local. If you have pests, use live traps to remove the animal. Use lids baited with beer for snails. Immediately clean up and then fix leaking radiators. Use chemicals sparingly around your yard, farm and business and only as a last resort. Simple detergent solutions from a spray bottle will kill aphids.

window strikes

Put up hawk or ultraviolet decals to help birds see the window. Closing blinds at night when lights are on keeps birds from flying into windows. Keeping blinds closed during the day keeps birds from thinking they can fly from one window to the next. Keep windows a little dirty so they don't reflect the sky as well.

open pipe fence and vent posts

Millions of birds and other wildlife are killed in innocent-looking death traps worldwide. Any open top vertical pipe can be a death trap. This problem has been recently highlighted by discoveries of dead birds and other wildlife in PVC mining claim markers across the western United States. At least 45 species of birds have been identified along with several other vertebrate species. Birds get trapped in all seasons investigating pipes for curiosity, food and/or nesting. This problem is nearly invisible – death pipes of all kinds kill birds and leave no trace. Although attention has been focused on PVC mining claim markers the problem is much more widespread. Death pipes can be… any size pipe or material: pipe fence posts, irrigation vents, plumbing vents on buildings – residential included – EVERY home and commercial building in the US may have at least one death pipe!

Simple solutions for the individual.
Look around your home for uncovered vent pipes, chain link fence posts, or any other upright open pipe. The most simple and permanent solution is to remove unnecessary posts and vent pipes.

The next few solutions require action to cover the open top pipe. With sign posts, fence posts, and mining claim markers filling them with dry sand, dirt or gravel and if you are concerned with the pipe rusting then put a metal or cement cap on top. Why do both? Well, over the life of a pipe caps can weather and fall off.

Vent pipes on buildings. Vent pipes are important to vent noxious gases and to help liquid to flow. These cannot be covered completely, but you can screen them to prevent wildlife from entering. Even pipes as little as 1” have trapped animals, so use wire hardware cloth, cut to size and secure it with a pipe clamp. This will allow unimpeded air flow and keep animals out of harm’s way.

Spread the word to your friends and family and become a leader in problem solvers!


Human caused fires have destroyed millions of acres of wildlife habitat. Make sure if you smoke you only do so in an enclosed vehicle. That you do not pull off the road where there is dry grass. That you don't build fires or burn weeds on windy days. And that you always drown campfires when you leave an area no matter how long you plan on being gone (many untended fires have caused wildfires).

monofilament entanglement

If you fish, make sure you pick up after yourself. Monofilament fishing line caught in underwater snags or in trees kills birds. It also maims many birds by amputating legs, wings and beaks. It also hurts people who trip on it or raft on rivers by snagging them. Make sure to pick up all discarded line and if you are not fishing go ahead and pick up fishing line and dispose of it for those who aren't as considerate.


As with the above, litter of all kinds is bad for birds and other wildlife along with being ugly. Wildlife mistakes trash for food or will use it to build nests or as decoration. Many condor chicks were fed micro-trash by inexperienced parents and some died before they could be rescued and rehabilitated. Birds get caught in beer cans, plastic of all kinds and other garbage. Sea birds and other wildlife mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and die from impaction and starvation. Be a birding pal and pick up all litter and drop it in the nearest garbage can (or take it home to dispose of properly). 

outdoor cats

Most birders love cats and have many as pets. The problem is not with our furry friends but with us. Cats need to be indoors to protect birds, small mammals and our beloved pets themselves. You don't need to love just one kind of animal over another. All wild and domestic animals deserve respect and caring. Billions of cats outdoors kill billions of birds. Keeping cats indoors is so much cheaper in the long run. The lifespan of an outdoor cat is generally about half the lifespan of an indoor cat.


All states have legitimate hunting programs that use bird census data to set limits on the number of birds allowed to be taken. Poachers are not legitimate hunters even though some may have licenses. Be aware of hunting seasons and property where hunting may lawfully take place. Call your local game department or police department if you see someone taking more than is allowed; hunting out of season; or violating any of the other laws of your region.


This is a huge problem that is so controversial because it requires an attitude shift on so many levels. Most of us live in wood houses, enjoy walking on wooden boardwalks, have furniture made of wood, read books and magazines made of wood, use paper plates made of wood and on and on. Eating meat is another reason for deforestation. How? Because forests are not places that cows and sheep can graze, so ranchers worldwide cut down and burn forests to force grassland to grow so their cows can graze. The solution would be for everyone to become vegetarians but this isn't realistic, but everyone could reduce their consumption of meat by eliminating it from a meal or two or just reducing portion size. Double bonus benefit include calorie reduction (as long as you don't replace steak with cake ;-) and less cholesterol.

There are manufacturers now that make paper products out of cane sugar fiber instead of wood. They also make cups out of corn or potato starch eliminating the need for plastic. Expensive now but if more people demand and use these products the price will come down.

In your home, use a water sealant on exposed wood on decks and fences, this will extend their life and reduce the need to rebuild with newly logged trees. Remodel homes instead of buying new. Carefully plan and monitor foundations around your home to eliminate dirt to wood contact. This will help reduce termite damage. 

vehicle collisions

Watch for animals on the side of roads and slow down. Some bird and other animal strikes are frustratingly hard to avoid. Resist the urge to swerve (unless it is a huge animal like a deer), this might sound counterintuitive but many animals see and react to the oncoming danger and are not anticipating your swerve. Ask your roads departments to avoid planting wildlife friendly plants right next to the roadway, setting the landscaping back keeps the birds from being spooked and flying directly into oncoming traffic.

barbed wire fences

The barbs on fences can entangle animals causing painful cuts and kill those that get talons or hooves caught between the wires. Make sure wire is tightly wound so there are no gaps are between wires that could ensnare wildlife. Use barbless wire where feasible to prevent cutting wildlife as they jump over or walk under fences. Consider using three strand wire instead of more. Use uneven spacing with a large gap between the top and middle strand so deer can clear the fence without catching their hind hooves. Many have died a slow painful death after becoming entangled on fences this way and dangle there for days before succumbing. Owls, hawks and other birds have caught their claws on tiny holes in loose wire and then died a slow painful death. It only takes a minute to clip problem wires but you may save lives by doing so.

water pollution

There are so many household and industrial liquids that make their way to our waterways. Solid waste too. Funny how water is the one substance that is required to sustain all life but some people think nothing of using those waterways as a tool to carry the problem out of sight. So many of us unintentionally pollute our waterways. Do you own a car, boat or other motor vehicle? Make sure you keep your motors tuned and replace worn gaskets as soon as they being to leak, this not only saves the land and water from oil and antifreeze drips, it also will help lengthen the life of your vehicle. Good for the planet and your pocketbook in the long run. Be aware that when you fertilize and use pesticides on your property, that these can easily run off into the drain or nearby waterways. Use all sparingly. Never ever litter as everything eventually flows to an inland lake or the sea. Not only is it unsightly it is dangerous for humans and wildlife alike.

eutropication of waterways

Ever camp near a beautiful stream and then nature calls? Well, make sure that call of the wild is at least 200' away from a waterway or meadow. Bury your waste or even better pack it out. The nitrogen of waste products causes blooms of algae that have turned deadly for fish, mammals and birds. The summer heating of nitrogen rich water causes cyanobacteria or demoic acid to grow, poisoning fish which are then eaten by birds and other animals. A painful neurological disease develops and kills the animals after some time. Grazing animals right next to waterways also causes nitrogen to enter the water. Fencing out cattle and sheep is a good way to stop the problem.  Keeping water troughs away from where runoff will occur works well, but make sure those troughs have escape ramps for small animals to climb out of the water (a stick placed diagonally in the water and secured to the side works well).

Audubon Kern River Preserve's continued existence depends on our donors. Our staff is funded from people like you. Please consider becoming part of our history and supporting the Audubon Kern River Preserve. The preserve is open to the public every day of the year, including holidays, from dawn until dusk. Thank you.


For over 100 years Audubon has been protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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