Environmental Stewardship: Birds

by John Berge
A number of tourists on our recent trip to Bordeaux, France, brought along binoculars in anticipation of some bird watching. Unfortunately, about the only birds we saw were the ubiquitous flocks of pigeons, a few English sparrows and a couple of crows or ravens — all rather scavenger-types of birds. We also saw no mosquitoes and very few flies or other insects, despite a three-day strike by sanitation workers when we first arrived.


This may be a coincidence, but I don’t believe so.
Even seed- or nectar-eating birds require insects to feed their young. Without that source of protein, the young song birds that we so enjoy will not mature. We can put up with a few mosquitoes and other insects in order to share our yards and parks with the abundance of birds with which we are blessed.


Leaving a few weeds as well as bugs in our environment is another way we can contribute to biodiversity and the bird population. We should reduce or eliminate pesticide and herbicide use. (Repellants can keep the mosquitoes away.) An overly clean yard, with garden beds and shrubs mulched to the extreme can remove the places where native bees and other insects can lay their eggs and protect themselves from our winter weather. Butterfly larva need places to feed and grow. We can partially make up for the mono-culture of our lawns by planting native perennials, trees and shrubs. A little laziness or messiness in our gardening can be a good thing.


Those plants should not include non-native, invasive plants. Learn how to identify them and remove them from your yard. As the National Audubon Society has written, “Invasive plants don’t provide as much good food or habitat as native species do, and can threaten healthy ecosystems.”


Birds also need water to drink and bathe in. Creating or protecting at least one water source in your yard is another way to encourage the birds to add color and song to your yard. Another suggestion from the Audubon Society is to close your blinds at night and turn off lights you are not using, especially during the migrating seasons. “Some birds use constellations to guide them on their annual migrations, and bright lights from windows and skylights (light pollution) can disrupt their steering senses.” Collisions between birds and windows are the greatest cause of mortality in birds other than cats. Wind turbines are far down the list.

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