Here in the northern hemisphere, we’re now heading into the height of summer and chances are that most of us are spending as much time outdoors as possible. You’ve probably noticed a lot more bird activity recently: the warmer months are critical for birds, as they need to raise their young and eat as much as they can in order to migrate safely back home, but are your own actions helping or hindering their well-being? Songbird numbers have decreased dramatically in recent years because of pesticides and air/water contamination (not to mention domestic and feral cats, wind turbines, window glass, and habitat loss), so the more we can do to help the little winged ones, the better. Read on to find out how you can help them.
1. Don’t Attempt to “Rescue” Baby Birds
In order for baby birds to learn how to fly, they need to be encouraged out of the nest. If you find a baby bird on the ground, don’t pick it up and take it inside: it’s more than likely that the parents are nearby, and are teaching the little one how to fend for itself. The exception to this rule is if you find an obviously injured bird that seems to be in distress—if that’s the case, you can place it in a towel-lined box and take it to a local wildlife rehabilitation or rescue center for care.
2. Provide Fresh Food and Water
Although birds can find a lot of food out in the wild during the summer, they do appreciate fresh seed scattered around, and a source of fresh water is super-important too. If you have a birdbath or water feature, please make sure to clean it regularly, and keep it filled with fresh water. If you have hummingbird feeders around your home, make sure that they’re cleaned often and that the sugar water within them is replaced before it starts to ferment (estimate 3-5 days depending on sun/heat exposure).
3. Keep Cats and Dogs Away from Birds
Yes, your pet cat undoubtedly likes to wander around outside, but free-roaming cats are responsible for the deaths of billions of birds each year, and the ones most vulnerable to their attacks are fledglings, as they spend a lot of time on the ground and aren’t strong enough (or fast enough) to fly away at the first sign of danger. Keep your cats indoors, and your dogs on leashes.
4. Let Your Land Go a Little Wild
Native plants can provide great sources of food and shelter for birds throughout the summer and autumn, so feel free to neglect part of your property in support of bird welfare. (It’s also a great excuse to avoid mowing the entire lawn…) Seed-bearing indigenous plants in particular are of great benefit, as are those that attract the pollinating insects that many birds feast on. Try not to trim your trees until fall so you don’t disturb nesting birds, and avoid mowing large fields or roadsides until mid August: ground-nesting birds as well as rabbits will be vulnerable all through July, so please let them grow up safely.