We’re several weeks into the New Year, and by now you’ve probably got a good idea how most of your resolutions are going to fare. But before you close the book on your best intentions, let us offer a few opportunities to make a big difference in the natural world around you. The tips below are some simple things anyone can do to help birds, and make their own lives a little bit richer in the process. After all, the whole reason we make resolutions in the first place is to make a lasting improvement in our world, right?
1. Trim your trees in the fall, not spring or summer.
Yes, we know you have that other resolution about getting the yard together – about this being the year you finally nurture that green thumb – but what might look like a mess to you is a perfect home for nesting birds. When your trim trees in the spring and summer, you wipe out active nests and remove opportunities for new nests. Best to wait until a time of year when birds aren’t laying down roots.
2. Plant some native plants with birds in mind.
Here’s where that green thumb thing happens. When looking to plant something in your yard, don’t just drift into the garden section of your local big box do-it-yourself palace and pick the first thing that looks fluffy. Spend a minute on the Internet and find something that’s native to your area and attracts birds. Don’t have yard? No worries, put something in a pot on your porch or steps. You’ll know your little slice of nature is a success when it’s full of birds and butterflies and other life.
3. Make your windows bird safe.
Birds crash into windows more than you think, often resulting in injury or death. There aren’t any perfect solutions to this problem, but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk. Place bird feeders within 3 feet or greater than 30 feet from windows. Try scaring birds away with hHawk silhouettes and owl decoys. If nothing works, try planting some foliage around the window, if possible. Birds often mistake windows for open sky, so anything that slows them down or brings them to a stop altogether is helpful. More about this.
4. Hang a feeder.
Bird feeders can be an awesome way to draw birds to your yard. You never know who will turn up. This is particularly helpful in the colder months when birds are finding their usual meals harder to find. Here are some tips from Audubon.
5. Learn your birds.
If you’re not one of those people with a closet full of high-end optics and a Life List in the thousands, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by the world of birds. Make it a goal this year to learn to identify 10 birds – heck, just make it five. You’ll be amazed how the natural world will be transformed for you when “that little black bird” becomes a Black Phoebe. Need some help?
6. Give someone the bird.
We’re not telling you to whip out the world’s most famous and insulting hand gesture (and perhaps get punched in the face). No, we’re suggesting you take your knowledge of birds and share it with someone, most preferably a kid. Identifying a bird for someone makes you look smart, and you never know, it might inspire the next great conservation leader.
7. Keep Fluffy indoors.
Sure, you believe Kitty is a kind-hearted soul who only wants to spend the day sleeping on the couch. Well, believe it or not, deep inside your cat lies the heart of a lion – and left outside on his own, Mr. Socks will chase and kill a lot of birds. That’s what he was built to do. Housecats kill millions of birds a year in the United States. Here’s the thing: being left outside all the time isn’t particularly great for your cat, either. So do everyone a favor and keep Puddy inside. If she must go outside, close supervision will keep everybody safe.
8. Connect with your local Audubon chapter.
There are nearly 100 local Audubon chapters in the Pacific Flyway, so trust us, there’s probably one near you. They host bird walks, programs, volunteer events, and much more. Connecting with your local chapter is a great way to make a difference, and have a lot of fun in the process. Find your local chapter here.
9. Give ‘em a bath.
Birds need water just as much as we do – and in the suburban environment where most of us live, that can be hard to find. A bird bath is a simple, popular way to provide water, with endless designs available at garden centers and wild bird supply stores. The sides should incline gently to a depth of no more than two to three inches. The surface should be rough for better footing. To protect vulnerable bathing birds from lurking predators, locate the bath some distance from cover, about 15 feet is a good distance. Change the water every few days and keep the bath scrubbed clean. Birds are attracted to the sound of running water and a drip or misting feature will increase the number of visitors. Water heaters will keep the water free of ice during winter months in colder climates.
10. Speak up for birds.
Not everybody has the time to stand on the National Mall in freezing temperatures waving a “Save the Birds!” sign. So we’ve made it easy for just about anyone to voice their support for birds to their elected representatives. Just sign up for Audubon action alerts. It takes just a few seconds – and you can really make a difference.