Birds are in trouble, but you can help bring them back. Live bird friendly by starting with these seven ways to make your home and lifestyle better for birds and the planet.
1. Turn lights out and treat windows to keep birds safe
The challenge: Up to 1 billion birds are estimated to die each year after flying into closed windows in the U.S. and Canada alone.
The cause: During the day, birds perceive the reflections in glass as habitat they can fly into. By night, migratory birds drawn in by city lights are at high risk of colliding with buildings.
Help birds with the flick of a switch: To prevent collisions, use external insect screens. These screens virtually eliminate reflections and cushion birds' impact. At night, turn out your lights or close the blinds.
Take it further: If you can't use screens, you can break up reflections on the outside of windows using film, paint, bird saving stick-on stripes or string spaced no more than 2-inches high or 2-inches wide.
Get started today: Make windows beautifully bird-friendly by applying tempera paint (available at most art supply and craft stores) to your windows. You can do this freehand with a brush or sponge, or use a stencil as a template. Tempera is long-lasting (even in rain) and nontoxic, but it comes right off with a damp rag or sponge.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly by showing off your bird-friendly window treatments.
2. Keep cats indoors to save birds
The challenge: Cats are estimated to kill more than 2.4 billion birds annually in the U.S. This is the No. 1 human-caused reason for the loss of birds, aside from habitat loss.
The cause: Cats can make great pets, but more than 100 million feral and pet cats now roam the U.S. These nonnative predators instinctively hunt and kill birds, even when well-fed.
Solutions that are good for cats and birds: Save birds and keep cats healthy by keeping cats indoors or creating an outdoor “catio.” You can also train your cat to walk on a leash.
Take it further: Speak out about the impacts of feral cat colonies in your neighborhood and on public lands. Unowned cats’ lives may be as short as two years because of disease and hardship, and they are responsible for 69% of birds killed by cats in the U.S.
Get started today: Research outdoor enclosures ("catios"), pet leashes and indoor enrichment to find safe solutions for your cat and birds.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly be keeping your feline friends happy indoors!
3. Plant native plants to shelter and nourish birds
The challenge: Birds have fewer places to safely rest during migration and to raise their young; More than 10 million acres of land in the U.S. was converted from good habitat to developed land from 1982 to 1997.
The cause: Most neighborhoods don't offer enough food or shelter for many birds and other wildlife. Native plants' nectar, seeds, berries, and the insects they attract sustain birds and diverse wildlife.
Adding native plants to yards, planters and other outdoor spaces provides shelter and nesting areas for birds.
Take it further by reducing lawns: With more than 63 million acres of lawn and 4 million miles of paved road in the U.S. alone, there is huge potential to support wildlife by replacing lawns with native plants.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly by posting a picture of your bird-friendly plantings — bonus points for creative uses of urban spaces!
4. Avoid pesticides for a bird-friendly home
The challenge: More than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied in the U.S. each year. Most of these can be toxic to birds and other wildlife.
The cause: Pesticides like neonicotinoids and common weed killers, such as 2,4-D and glyphosate, are toxic to birds. These chemicals can harm birds directly through contact or indirectly if birds eat contaminated seeds or prey. Pesticides can also harm birds by reducing the number of insects that birds need to eat to survive.
Take it further: Consider buying certified organic foods, which are grown without artificial chemicals. While some organic foods can be pricier, shopping the frozen aisle and taking advantage of sales and bulk can help you save.
Get started today: Skip using pesticides around the home and yard, and research what is in the products you use.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly by eliminating pesticides and going organic.
5. Choose Bird Friendly® food products to protect disappearing habitats
The challenge: More than 70 species of North American migratory songbirds overwinter in coffee and cocoa plantations in the tropics, including orioles, warblers and thrushes. However, native trees are often eliminated from farms to grow the coffee and cocoa leaving little to no habitat for migratory birds or tropical wildlife.
The cause: While growing coffee and cocoa in full sun may increase the volume of coffee or cocoa beans grown, it usually destroys habitat and requires environmentally harmful pesticides and fertilizers. In contrast, Smithsonian Bird Friendly® certified coffee and cocoa preserves forest habitats and native trees that help migratory birds survive the winter.
Choose coffee and chocolates with the Smithsonian Bird Friendly® logo to support habitat on coffee and cocoa growing farms. The Bird Friendly certification was created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and is the gold standard in environmental protection in coffee and cocoa growing landscapes. Bird Friendly is the only certification to guarantee that 100% of the coffee and cocoa come from farms that protect bird and wildlife habitat.
Take it further: Ask your coffee shop or grocery store to carry Smithsonian Bird Friendly® coffee and chocolates, or use this form to write to your local store manager.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly by posting a photo of your Bird Friendly brew or treat — bonus points for reusable mugs!
6. Avoid single-use plastics to protect birds and the planet
The challenge: It’s estimated that 4,900 million metric tons of plastic have accumulated in landfills and in our environment worldwide, polluting our oceans and harming wildlife such as seabirds, whales and turtles that mistakenly eat plastic or become entangled in it.
The cause: Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, and 91% of plastics created are not recycled. Studies show that at least 80 seabird species ingest plastic, mistaking it for food. Cigarette lighters, toothbrushes and other trash have been found in the stomachs of dead albatrosses.
Reduce your use of plastics: Avoid single-use plastics, including bags, bottles, wraps and disposable utensils. It is far better to choose reusable or compostable items, but if you do have disposable plastic, be sure to recycle it.
Take it further: Advocate for bans of plastic bags, Styrofoam and straws. Encourage stores to offer incentives for reusable bags, and ask restaurants and other businesses to phase out single-use plastics.
Get started today: Eight easy ways to reduce your plastic waste.
Spread the word: Share how you #LiveBirdFriendly and post your creative solutions for avoiding single-use plastics.
7. Share your sightings on eBird
The challenge: Monitoring birds is essential to help protect them, but tracking the health of the world's 10,000 bird species is an immense challenge for scientists.
The cause: To understand how birds are faring, scientists need hundreds of thousands of people to report what they are seeing in backyards, neighborhoods and wild places around the world. Without this information, scientists lack timely data to show where and when birds are thriving or declining.
Use your smartphone to help birds: Use the free Merlin Bird ID app to identify birds, and share what you see with the eBird app anytime, anywhere. When shared with eBird, your bird sightings provide valuable information to show scientists where and how they should focus their research and conservation efforts.
Take it further: Join a local birding project like Project FeederWatch, a Christmas Bird Count, or a Breeding Bird Survey to record your observations. Are you an educator? Teach your students about monitoring migratory birds with Follow That Bird! — a science and technology unit on tracking birds.
Spread the word: Share your latest eBird entry — bonus points for migratory species! #LiveBirdFriendly
Audio recordings by Jay McGowan, Matthew D. Medler, Walter A. Thurber, and Wil Hershberger provided by the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.