Regular readers of this column know that while I try to write about a variety of wildlife, my main interest is in birds. Like many people, I have a soft spot for the feathered species that grace our backyards and feeders. Sadly however, birds are in trouble throughout the world.
Habitat loss, collisions with windows and predation by domestic cats all contribute to population declines. Fragmented forests that have been cut open for human development also negatively impact some species while benefiting others. On top of these pressures, birds now have to contend with the rapid effects of a changing climate. In a very real sense, we have pushed some species to the absolute brink.
Thankfully, there are several things we can do as individuals to support bird conservation. One of the easiest ways to help wildlife is by supporting conservation organizations. There are many wonderful bird-related charities that are worthy of your time, energy, and donations. Personally, I support American Bird Conservancy, an organization that educates the public and creates nature reserves in Central and South America. An established network of these reserves supports our migratory birds on their wintering grounds.
In Maine, various land trusts conserve bird habitat by protecting forests, wetlands, and coastal islands from development and further human encroachment. Locally, Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust works to protect the land and rivers of the Damariscotta-Pemaquid region. Area preserves under their management help feed and shelter local birds and other wildlife. Nature education programs offered by Coastal Rivers also help engage children with our environment.
At the backyard level, you can support birds by offering food, water, cover, and adequate nesting sites. Native plants, especially native trees, serve as both nest sites and places to escape from poor weather and predators. Natural yards (think pesticide-free) support birds by offering food in the form of insects. Placing feeders can also help the multitude of seed-loving birds that visit backyards.
Other actions that benefit birds include keeping cats indoors, planting wildlife-friendly oak trees, drinking shade-grown coffee, and reducing plastic consumption. Small actions multiplied by well-meaning people can make a world of difference. At the very least, consider making a donation of any size to groups supporting birds and other wildlife.
Learning more about birds is another way to get more involved with their conservation and continued existence. Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop, our local bookstore, has a selection of field guides and other bird books. Beyond making an excellent Christmas or holiday gift, a field guide is a wonderful resource for those newly interested in birds and their habitats. Going on an owl prowl or bird walk offered by a local naturalist is another opportunity to advance your bird-related education.
If nothing else, you may discover a new hobby that gets you outside and puts you in closer proximity to the natural world. Birding is a healthy outlet that I would recommend to anyone, regardless of age or previous interest. Immersing yourself in the world of birds has the added benefit of helping the very species you strive to learn about.