Feed The Birds, Count the Birds, Take Action For The Birds

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

Our gardens, our lives and our world would not be the same without birds. Yet a recent scientific study reports that bird populations have declined by almost 30% over the last fifty years. A September 2019 article in the NY Times titled, “Birds are Vanishing from North America”, stated: “The analysis, published in the journal Science, is the most exhaustive and ambitious attempt yet to learn what is happening to avian populations. 

The results have shocked researchers and conservation organizations.” 

This sobering fact means it’s even more important than ever to help birds. Feeding bird with feeders and plants, especially at migrating times and winter is very important. The Audubon Society recommends having bird feeders that supply quality food and are kept clean. A water source is also important year round. 

Our gardens can be a home for birds and a source of food. Native plants provide seed, fruit and shelter. Native oak trees are one of the most important food sources. They support the life of over 500 moth and butterfly caterpillar species. These caterpillars are needed by birds to feed their young. Insects and birds both need native trees, shrubs and perennials. It is important NOT to clean up leaf debris under trees and NOT cut back plants in the fall and over winter. Many insects overwinter in bark, leaves, plant stems and seed heads. By cleaning up gardens too early, the life of these insects is severely diminished. Wait until spring temperatures are 50+ degrees for three days in a row. That will give insects time to emerge from their winter homes. Cleanup can take place then.

Bird lovers can also help science by counting birds seen at feeders, in gardens, landscapes, and parks. This is very important data that scientists use to track bird populations. Scientists can’t be everywhere so help is needed. Two bird counts people can participate in this winter are Project FeederWatch and the Great Backyard Bird Count. 

Project FeederWatch (feederwatch.org) started in the 1970s in Canada. Today it is a joint project with Birds Canada and the Cornell Lab or Ornithology. Over 20,000 participants track migrations and populations of birds throughout North America from November to April. Anyone, or any group, with a bird feeder or plantings that feed birds, and water for birds can participate. The schedule is completely flexible for watching. Participants can still start in January or anytime before the April 3, 2020 ending. There is an $18 annual fee that pays for the specific instructions and recording materials, the FeederWatch website, staffing and data analysis done for this project. 

The Great Backyard Bird Count (birdcount.org) is a four-day count that takes place February 14 through Monday February 17, 2020. Started in 1998, there are now over 190,000 participants. Participants count birds in their own yards, in parks, (city, state, national) or any place in the world. The GBBC is free and easy for beginning to expert bird watchers. Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event. The bird counts are reported online and used by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society for their research.

Birds need us also to take action for their survival. Audubon’s new report, Survival by Degrees, 389 Bird Species on the Brink, details how two-thirds of North America’s bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change. Congress is considering a bill to help switch from fossil fuels to renewal energy. Call and ask your congress members to support “Better Energy Storage Technology Act of 2019”. Other climate change actions also help birds and all life on earth. Audubon’s Climate-Action-Guide has great information: www.audubon.org/climate-action-guide.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and creativity workshop leader. She guides others to connect with nature through nature journeys-forest bathing. Her website and blog are at www.CreativityForTheSoul.com. Her phone is 314 504-4266.