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:
• Turn off lights at night: Birds become disoriented by artificial light, which often results in fatal collisions with buildings, homes, and other structures. To prevent this, turn off exterior and interior lights as much as possible each night during the peak migration period of April-June. Outfit exterior lights with top and side shields to direct the light downward, where it is needed. If you work in a high-rise, advocate for "lights out" during migration season.
• Prevent window collisions: Many birds strike windows after being startled off a feeder, seeing escape routes mirrored in reflective glass. To avoid this, reduce reflectivity with light-colored shades, blinds, or drapes; place netting or a screen in front of the window; or stick decals closely spaced to the outside of windows. Place bird feeders either within 3 feet or more than 30 feet of windows – at 3 feet birds do not have enough distance to reach a high speed and are therefore less likely to get injured in a collision; at more than 30 feet, they are less likely to be attracted to reflections in the window.
• Keep cats indoors: It is estimated that cats – domestic, stray, or feral – kill more than a billion birds each year. Ground feeding birds, such as cardinals and quail, as well as young, immature birds, are the most vulnerable. Keeping cats indoors helps keep the birds outdoors safe, and it also reduces risks to cats, especially from injuries and disease.
• Eliminate pesticides: U.S. households use 110 million pounds of pesticides in their homes and gardens annually, which kill several million birds each year when the birds ingest tainted insects, seeds and other food sources. Use the least toxic alternatives for combating pests.
• Keep feeders stocked and clean: Birds will need places to rest and refuel, so make sure that your yard includes native plants and your bird- feeders are well-stocked. Along with feeders and native plants, provide a source of fresh water for the thirsty travelers. Adding a drip to a bird bath or pool greatly increases its attractiveness to migratory birds as it adds noise and movement. Reduce the risk of spreading disease at feeders by regularly cleaning them with a nine-to-one water-bleach solution, or a dilute vinegar solution (three-to-one) or non-fragranced biodegradable soap.
For more information on how to keep birds safe, visit the Audubon At Home website at www.audubonathome.org (go to the "Keeping Wildlife Safe" link on the left-hand side of the page).
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