Celebrate Earth Day this year by becoming more bird friendly! We know that bird populations are declining across Canada and globally, with some groups of birds declining more strongly than others. As individuals it is easy to feel overwhelmed – what can we do? Below are some concrete actions you can take starting on Earth Day and continuing year-round.
Window Collision Prevention
Window collisions are one of the leading causes of bird deaths in Canada. When people think of window collisions they often think of high-rise buildings, but actually by the numbers more birds collide with residential buildings – likely because there are more of them on the landscape. There are multiple products you can buy local or make yourself to reduce the impact of your windows.
Charlotte’s Birdseed is a Winnipeg-based small business that has partnered with Nature Manitoba to donate $2 from each window cling sold to bird conservation. This beautiful window cling plays double duty by breaking up the reflection of the outdoors in your window, as well as displaying a lovely piece of local art. You can find them at charlottesbirdseed.com/. When using window clings find one that is the right size for your window – ideally you want to have gaps of less than 5 cm or 2” around the clings.
For DIY solutions try strings or ribbons on the outside of your window, tempera paint or soap! If you have a bird feeder or bath in your yard placing it as close as possible to a window (0.5 m or less) can reduce window collision injuries as the short distance to the window means that a bird cannot gather as much momentum when hitting a window from the feeder. For more information on prevention of window collisions including commercial and DIY products see FLAP Canada.
Keep Cats and Birds Safe
Cats are the number one cause of bird death according to a study published in 2013 (A Synthesis of Human-related Avian Mortality in Canada). This includes both feral and domestic cats – which may hunt birds whether they are hungry or not. The best way to keep birds safe from cats (and cats safe as well) is keep cats from free-roaming outside. Perhaps the purrrfect project this spring is to build a catio (cat patio)! Catios allow cats to enjoy the outdoors without having a negative impact on nature, and keeping cats safe from dangers such as traffic. Check out this article from B.C.’s SPCA to learn about some of the key considerations in building your own catio and some build guides that fit the space you have: https://spca.bc.ca/news/how-to-build-a-catio/
Spread the Word about Bird Habitats
An easy way to make an impact is to spread the word about the importance of habitat for birds. For many species a key reason for population decline is a loss of habitat. This habitat is different for each species but overall conservation of habitat is key and each habitat type has different drivers of decline.
Freshwater habitat – Freshwater habitat includes everything from temporary ponds formed by spring meltwater to the huge Lake Winnipeg. Common threats to freshwater habitat include climate change, pollution, invasive species, land use changes and drainage. To find out more about the ways in which freshwater habitat is key for bird species see our Freshwater Habitat Factsheet. Or visit our newly created Shorebird Scrape at Oak Hammock Marsh to see freshwater habitat conservation in action!
Grassland habitat – Manitoba contains both tall-grass, and mixed-grass prairie habitat. Prairie habitat is key for birds that are grassland obligate species – birds that can only live on the prairies. This includes birds such as the Burrowing Owl and Chestnut-collared Longspur. Many grassland bird species are threatened or endangered. Threats to grassland habitat include conversion to other land uses, such as crop-land, and climate change. Advocating and spreading the word about the importance of grassland habitat is key to having people recognize the importance of this often under-appreciated habitat.
Forest habitat – Manitoba contains a variety of forested habitats from boreal to aspen woodlands. Common threats to forest habitat include clearing or breaking up the forest habitat used by birds, spraying of pesticides and climate change. Keeping remaining woodlots and forest habitats intact is key to help forest birds survive.
Urban habitat – While urban habitat is not in danger of declining, the quality of the habitat within urban areas is not all equal. Providing food, water and shelter for birds that live in our city habitats can be key. This can include planting native plants that go to seed, reducing the use of pesticides to benefit insect-eating birds, and leaving brush in areas of your yard to provide shelter.
Volunteer with a Conservation Organization
Manitoba IBA has several different volunteer opportunities available for people of all birding skill levels. If you would like to know about volunteer opportunities as they come up, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bird Blitz Volunteers – Volunteers go out in groups to count and monitor bird populations in our Important Bird Areas. This gives us an idea of the health of the IBAs, general bird trends, outreach and education opportunities and is overall good fun!
Shoreline Clean-up and Weed Pull Volunteers – Manitoba IBA conducts weed pulls and shoreline clean-ups at our IBAs along Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba. Abandoned fishing gear and other garbage can entangle birds but is easy to clean up! Invasive vegetation, such as burdock and sweet clover can take over a beach, growing over the open, sandy habitat that is key for some birds like Piping Plovers.
International Shorebird Survey (ISS) Volunteers – Are you interested in shorebirds? If you go birding along any of our ISS routes in Manitoba, please enter the checklist under the ISS protocol in ebird.org! If you would like to learn more about shorebird ID we would be glad to partner you with an experienced volunteer to learn the ropes.
IBA Caretaker Volunteers – If you tend to visit your local IBA multiple times a year, you may be interested in becoming an IBA caretaker for that IBA. Our Caretakers submit regular bird reports to us from their IBA. See here for more information.