People can provide a safer journey for migrating birds, especially when the birds stop in their yards and communities for rest and food. The Audubon At Home program urges people to take the following steps to help ensure a successful spring migration for our feathered friends:
- 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 during the peak migration hours of midnight to dawn. 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 an adequate distance to reach a high speed and are less likely to get injured. At more than 30 feet birds are more likely to recognize the window.
- Keep cats indoors: Cats – domestic, stray, or feral – kill an estimated hundreds of millions of 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 102 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).