In much of the U.S., May is peak migration month. Birds of every kind – songbirds, raptors, and shorebirds – fly from their winter homes in the south to their summer breeding grounds in places as far north as the Arctic. Along the way they encounter many perils including bright lights and tall buildings, cats and toxic lawns.
Fortunately, people can help ensure a safer journey for migrating birds. Backyards and parks, often key stopover points for many species, can become bird-friendly rest stops with a few simple steps. Audubon urges people to take the following actions this spring:
1) Reduce or eliminate pesticide and herbicide use. Using fewer chemicals in your yard and home helps keep wildlife, pets and people healthy.
2) Plant native plants. Natives provide birds with food in the form of fruit and seeds, and are also home to tasty invertebrates like bugs and spiders.
3) Keep cats inside. Keeping cats indoors ensures that birds outdoors stay safe and cats benefit too; indoor cats live much longer than cats that go outside.
4) Prevent window collisions. Make sure birds can see (and avoid) your windows by putting up screens, closing drapes and blinds when you leave the house, or stick multiple decals on the glass (decals need to be spaced closely together to be effective - no more than two to four inches apart).
5) Provide cover in your backyard. Leave snags for nesting places and stack downed tree limbs to create a brush pile, which is a great source of cover for birds during bad weather.
6) Help birds stay on course. Close your blinds at night and turn off lights you aren’t using. Some birds use constellations to guide them on their annual migrations, and bright lights can disrupt them.
7) Create or protect water sources in your yard. Birds need water to drink and bathe in, just like we do. Be sure to change the water two to three times per week when mosquitoes are breeding.
8) Landscape for birds. Use lots of layers, including understory, ground cover, shrubs, and trees. Multiple levels of plants let birds use different layers for different purposes, such as nesting, feeding, and singing.
9) Extend a bird safety net beyond your backyard. Contact your local Audubon Chapter to learn about opportunities to create healthy habitat in parks, beaches and other places in your community.
10) Take the Audubon At Home Healthy Yard Pledge! When you take the Pledge, you commit to conserving water, planting native species, removing invasive plants, reducing pesticide use, protecting water quality, and keeping birds safe in your yard.