Migratory birds face particularly strong threats because they are affected by the activities in every country they travel through. In other words, countries like Panama may lose some of their species from activities occurring in communities hundreds or thousands of miles away.
From another perspective, we have an great opportunity to protect migratory species because every country along their migratory routes can assist in their protection. According to this line of thought, we challenge you to adopt your part of the environment and support migratory birds. Explore the information on this page for more information about how you can help.
As the environment is being further fragmented by urbanization, birds are finding it harder to find food or nesting locations. Although protected areas like national parks can help, there are also things that every person can do to make a difference.
Planting native plants near your home or business is important for a variety of species, and not just migratory ones! Native plants provide vital food, nesting areas, shelter, and are generally easier to grow because they are already adapted to the local environment. They also provide essential services like removing pollution, preventing erosion, and lower water needs.
Nestboxes are an excellent way of supporting migratory birds if you live where they breed. Cavity nesters, for example some species of swallows, need special help if we continue eliminating the dead plants that they normally use. Smart designs for aspects such as the size of the entrance holes can even allow native species while excluding invasive species!
Bird feeders can be an important source of food for migrants. Because of the distance they travel during migration, migratory birds need a lot of energy and have to eat a lot to recuperate. Therefore, they depend on feeders more than resident species. However, remember that not all species eat seeds: consider offering different types of food, such as fruit or insects (the most important food for migratory birds).
Although cats are great pets, don't forget that they are also predators! Even well-fed cats will still hunt if they have the opportunity. Of course, owners of outdoor cats probably already know this since cats are well known to "gift" their owners with dead animals.
Cats kill an estimated 100,000,000 birds in North America every year.
Many conservationists consider cats a significant threat to wildlife, particularly for groups of animals that are in decline like migratory birds. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has included cats as one of the top 100 invasive species worldwide.
How can you help? Most importantly, keep your cats indoors. Although this idea is not popular with many owners, it's more likely for outdoor cats to:
- kill endangered species
- get injured from a fight
- die from car accidents or wild predators
- contract parasites or illnesses
If you prefer to keep your cat outdoors, consider building an enclosed play area to protect both your cat and wild animals.
It's vital to control pest populations, but we use too many chemicals that affect the environment in unwanted ways. These chemicals, including many which are considered "safe", can be deadly to native species. Migratory birds run a particularly large risk because they travel through many countries with different laws regarding the use of pesticides and thus generally are exposed to more chemicals than resident species.
Neonicotinoids are the most common type of pesticide used in agricultural areas to kill insects that eat crops. However, this pesticide frequently gets into the local environment and affects native species. Even worse, insects (the main target of neonicotinoids) and the most important food source for migratory birds.
Rat poisons are one of the main killers of raptors because, unfortunately, it's easy for hawks and owls to catch poisoned rats. However, when we accidentally kill these birds, we can actually increase rodent populations because we've eliminated their predators. A single barn owl, Tyto alba, for example, can eat more than 1,000 rats per year!
What are the alternatives? Well, if you're worried about pests, consider using biodegradable pesticides or organic gardening methods if you can. For a rodent problem, we support the use of quick-kill traps like the classic rat trap. Don't use glue traps, because it's likely that you will accidentally catch other animals like snakes, lizards, or birds!
Most birds migrate at night, some using the stars and moon to navigate. Artificial lights, however, can confuse them and cause them to crash into windows by accident. Even during the day, it's very easy for birds to collide with windows because they cannot see them.
More than one billion birds die every year from window collisions in North America.
How can you help? Wherever possible, incorporate clear visual cues in windows for birds to avoid, such as:
- shade structures
- high contrast patterns on the glass
For more information or to test how safe your building is for birds, click here: BirdSafe