“Oh, my goodness! It’s the Year of the Bird!!! I have to do something for the birds!” This was probably your reaction to finding out about the Year of the Bird campaign which celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. I know it was definitely mine.
Luckily, Madison Audubon was thoughtful enough to put together a list of some things that bird lovers can do to help make a difference in 2018, at least in the bird world. How do you bird your world? Let us know with #birdyourworld on social media!
1. Pick up the phone and call your legislators! Let them know that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is clutch for protecting birds (hah, get it?). All kidding aside, the MBTA is the best, most powerful bird conservation legislation ever, and current administration is trying to gut it. Help protect this 100-year-old legislation! Not sure who to call? Visit legis.wisconsin.gov to find your legislators.
2. Remember the time you went out and played at the park by your house? Or that one time your parents took you to the lake? Take a kid outside and recreate your favorite childhood nature memory. Of course, don’t forget to photograph it and share it with us 😉
3. Gardening season is right around the corner. If you’re looking to test out your green thumb or are looking to expand your garden, try planting some native plants in your yard or in a natural area near you. Native species provide bountiful nectar, seeds, nest materials, and fodder for insect prey that birds need, to survive and thrive!
4. Share what you see! Track your bird observations in eBird or participate in a citizen science project looking at birds like Great Backyard Bird Count, Global Big Day, Climate Watch, Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas. There are plenty of programs that are looking for birders to share their observations.
5. Did you know that cats (house, barn, and feral) kill more birds each year than almost any other threat combined?! Sorry cat people, nothing against the cute and cuddly (or not so cuddly) creatures. It’s best that you keep cats inside though, or even on a leash. That would be pretty nice of you.
6. Would you want to fly through a bunch of greenhouse gases? I don’t think so! Not to mention find your favorite nesting spot regularly getting flooded during crazy storms or not find your favorite arthropod snack because the weather is all wacky. Climate change is real, people. Consider adjusting your layers before adjusting your thermostat.
7. Did you enjoy calling your legislators? Well here is another way to give them a respectful earful of passionate words. Urge your Wisconsin Representative to vote against the amended version of AB 574 in mid-February. This destructive legislation allows developers to fill in bird-supporting wetlands without consequence.
8. Did you know that those tiny hummingbirds beat their wings 10-15 seconds per second? If that was me, I know I would appreciate a snack. But be cautious of what you put out for them! Make sure that the hummingbird feeder has dye-free sugar water! That dye is quite dangerous for birds.
9. How is native plant garden going for ya? Here’s another tip to make that garden even better, discontinue or reduce use of pesticides in your yard. I bet a bunch of people and animals would appreciate that.
10. You know that commercial where the crows make fun of the man who used Windex because he walks right into the glass door? Yeah, that actually happens a lot in the bird world. Make sure you help reduce and prevent window strikes by painting designs, taping shapes, or hanging streamers in and around your large windows. How about some beautiful bird themed stained glass?
11. Encourage your workplace, especially if it’s in a tall building, to turn off lights at night or close the blinds. This would also help reduce the electric bill, and who knows maybe that extra change will end up in your wallet.
12. Having problems sleeping because of your outdoor cat struggling to adjust to the indoor life? Maybe you go straight for a caffeine pick-me-up upon rolling out of bed. When picking which cup of joe is going to make you feel like 4 hours of sleep was actually 9 hours, try purchasing shade-grown coffee (available in lots of grocery stores and local coffee shops. When in doubt, get Fair Trade coffee – it’s almost always shade-grown!) This type of coffee is actually grown in the understory of mature trees and supports a diversity of tropical birds and wildlife. Pretty cool, huh? Just make sure to keep an eye on your cup with that new roommate of yours...
13. Encourage creepy crawlies in your garden. Caterpillars, aphids, flies, butterflies, and even bees are great food sources for birds and part of the natural food web. Talk about a 5-star buffet!
14. Come join a Madison Audubon work party to restore native habitat at one of our sanctuaries: madisonaudubon.org/volunteer. Not only will you be helping nature, but you’d also meet some pretty cool people, just saying.
15. Disinfect your bird feeders and bird baths frequently to prevent the spread of disease. Keep these areas clean just like you would want to keep your kitchen counters and showers clean. You wouldn’t want to get sick from those surfaces, so why would a bird?
16. Respect birds’ personal bubbles. Keep your distance from birds, especially while taking photos. If they stare at you or fly away, it means you are interrupting their – and what must be everyone’s -- favorite times of the day: meal time and sleep time. Don’t be that guy.
17. Share something with your friends on social media once a month about why birds matter to you. Or better yet, get them to join you in helping the birds! The more the merrier, right?
18. Grab your binoculars, get outside, and #BirdYourWorld! Birdwatching is fun, family-friendly, and for anyone, any time of the year. You could even pack a picnic and make a day out of it! Or for those colder months, grab some snowshoes or cross-country skis and hit the trails with your birding gear to see what birds are brave enough to hang out in Wisconsin for the winters.
Written by Cristina Zepeda, Communications Intern