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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 harms way.
Spread the word to your friends and family and become a leader in
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).
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.