Seven Things YOU Can Do Every Day to Help Birds

Sometimes it can feel like there are so many problems out there and there’s nothing you can do about them. But we’re here to tell you: that’s not the case! Here are six things you can do every day that will directly benefit the birds we all love. (Side benefits for other animals, the environment and all of us who live on this planet too!) Thank you for everything you do to help — it all counts.

1. Drink shade-grown bird-friendly coffee.

Many of North America’s migrants spend the winter in Central and South America, and need forests with understory, mid-layer and canopy. Much of our coffee is grown in these same places, and traditional coffee farming involves cutting down all trees and plants and re-planting non-native (read: unhelpful to native birds) coffee plants. However, coffee plants can grow in the shade, and more and more coffee plantations are leaving the canopy layer of the forest intact and only clearing the lower layers for their coffee plants. This means birds can still forage and shelter in the upper layers for food -- much more helpful than a coffee-plant-only plantation! Look for the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Certified Shade Grown Bird-Friendly Coffee logo on shade-grown coffee in stores or online, and if buying a coffee at a cafe or restaurant ask if they sell bird-friendly coffee.

Check out Where to Buy Bird Friendly Coffee at https://nationalzoo.si.edu/migratory-birds/where-buy-bird-friendly-coffee

You can also buy bird-friendly coffee from our sponsors Bird and Beans Coffee: https://birdsandbeanscoffee.com/

For more ideas on other bird-friendly foods, have a look at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/7-bird-friendly-foods-to-put-in-your-pantry/

2. Cut plastic six-pack rings before throwing them out.

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Plastic does not decompose, and often ends up in our waterways and oceans… And even if you throw it in the trash, it might blow out of the garbage truck, down the sewer and eventually into the sea. It has been estimated that in one year, one million seabirds will die from six-pack rings. When you buy a six-pack of soda or beer, or pull a plastic ring off a bottle of milk, use scissors to snip through the rings so they are no longer circular. You might save a duck or a gull from unintentionally strangling themselves.

For more information on innovative up-and-coming eco six-pack rings, check out: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/florida-saltwater-brewery-non-plastic-six-pack-rings-spare-sea-turtles/

3. Say no to plastic straws.

It has been estimated that in the US every day 500 million plastic straws are used… and then discarded. They often end up in the ocean, breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces and being eaten by birds and other marine life. More and more cafes, restaurants and fast food chains are switching to biodegradable straws made from paper, pasta or even avocado pits! Say no to plastic straws when they’re offered to you, bring your own reusable straw, support those businesses who use biodegradable straws, and encourage others to follow.

Learn more about plastic straws and their impact at: https://www.strawlessocean.org/faq/

For cafes and restaurants, learn about only offering straws upon request at: https://www.aardvarkstraws.com/straws-on-request

You can buy aluminium, glass or paper reusable straws online for using at home from places like: https://earthhero.com/product-category/simply-straws/

You can buy foldable aluminium straws to keep on your key ring or in your purse for use when you are eating out at: https://finalstraw.com/

4. Don’t use balloons at birthday parties or celebrations.

Photo by David Steely, Farne Islands National Trust, UK.

Photo by David Steely, Farne Islands National Trust, UK.

Balloons are fun and cheerful, but even if you don’t release them into the air at your celebration, deflated or popped they will likely end up in the ocean. Many seabirds (and turtles) mistake deflated balloons for food, feeding them to their chicks which can clog their intestines causing them to die. Instead you could use bubbles, bunting or streamers -- just stay away from balloons!

For a further explanation on the harmful effects of balloons on seabirds, visit: https://www.zoo.org.au/get-involved/act-for-wildlife/balloons/about

For suggestions of alternatives to balloons, check out: https://balloonsblow.org/environmentally-friendly-alternatives

5. Keep your cat inside. (At least at night time!)

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Cats, both wild and domesticated, kill birds. It’s not their fault -- it’s what they were ‘designed’ to do. It just isn’t any good for the birds. In fact, according to the American Bird Conservancy, domestic cats are the number one direct, human-caused threat to birds in the United States and Canada, and in the US alone outdoor cats kills approximately 2.4 billion birds every year. According to the American Humane Society, it’s actually better to keep your cat indoors for their own health; it prevents them catching life-threatening diseases and parasites from wild cats in your neighborhood; it stops them being hit by cars; and it removes the risk of them ingesting toxins or poisons by mistake. If having an inside cat full-time seems too much, at least keeping your cat indoors overnight can reduce their likely impact on birds.

For more on the health benefits to your cat from keeping it indoors, see: https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/indoor-cats-vs-outdoor-cats/

For ways to let your cat experience the outdoors without harming birds, check out: https://abcbirds.org/catio-solutions-cats/

Take the American Bird Conservancy Cats Indoors Pledge at: https://abcbirds.org/action/cats-pledge

6. Only eat sustainable fish and seafood.

Many fishing practices are not selective for the actual fish they want to catch, and end up catching ‘by products’... which are often smaller fish species that birds depend on for food. Sometimes it depends on the species of fish, sometimes how they are fished or farmed, and sometimes it depends if it was farmed or wild caught. By choosing sustainable fish and seafood products, you are not competing with seabirds for the fish they need to survive.

Download the free Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app, to quickly and easily determine if your future meal is a good choice for seabirds too.

Learn more and download the app from: https://www.seafoodwatch.org/

 

7. Prevent window strikes on your home and office windows.

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It has been estimated that, in the US alone, between 100 million to one billion birds die each year as a result of flying into glass. This happens because birds can’t see glass (so they just keep on flying), but is hugely influenced by the fact that songbirds tend to migrate at night, and big tall window-covered buildings often leave their lights on overnight — shining like a beacon to tired birds. There are many ways architects can design buildings (and the areas immediately around them) to be more bird-friendly, as well as many ways we can modify the glass in our homes and offices to help prevent window strikes and unnecessary bird deaths.

If you (or anyone you know) is building a house or renovating an office, pass this great guide on to them from New York City Audubon… and have a read yourself! http://www.nycaudubon.org/pdf/BirdSafeBuildingGuidelines.pdf

If you find an injured bird (who’s flown into a window or otherwise), here’s what you should do to give it the best chance of recovery: http://www.nycaudubon.org/finding-a-young-or-injured-bird