Stillwater is now a “Bird City” with signs posted at the city’s entrances so that visitors will know that Stillwater appreciates and cares for our birds. What can Stillwater residents do to protect and appreciate our native birds? Here are several ways to live a Bird-Friendly Life. We should all work to protect and enhance natural habitat, not use neonicotinoids, work on our “urban forest” and educate and engage people on birds.
KEEP CATS INDOORS: Cats are wonderful pets, but they are devastating to native birds. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) estimates that cats kill over a billion birds a year.
PLANT A TREE: Trees provide food and shelter for our birds. 95% of our native birds eat insects and native trees are hosts to beneficial insects for birds and their young. Trees provide materials and space for nests, and protection from intense weather and from predators. Stillwater Public Works provides a list of native trees and shrubs for homeowners.
STOP BIRDS FROM HITTING YOUR WINDOWS: Over 200 million birds die each year from collisions with windows! (Think the Vikings Stadium) The ABC has a database of ways to stop these collisions – from simple tempera paints and tape to special screens and film. Window decals which signal to birds are available at pet and seed stores. Birds don’t hit all windows; if you find birds under certain windows, those windows should be targeted with decals or tape.
BUY BIRD-FRIENDLY COFFEE: Most of our songbirds migrate from Central America. Think about buying certified shade-grown coffees such as “Rainforest Alliance Certified” or “Bird Friendly” which requires that farmers maintain or restore tree canopy cover and don’t use pesticides which decrease the birds’ food supply.
TURN DOWN YOUR LIGHTS: Most birds migrate at night and can be drawn off course by lighted structures during peak migration—from March 15 to May 31 and from August 15 to October 31. The Lights Out program was mainly directed to taller buildings, but homeowners can help by turning off exterior decorative lighting and minimizing security lighting, and turning off interior lighting, especially on upper floors when not being used.
AVOID PESTICIDES: Neonicotinoids are pesticides which kill not just the pests but also the insects that our native birds depend on to feed their young. Be sure to look or ask when you buy plants and stay away from plants treated with neonicotinoids.
GO NATIVE WITH YOUR LANDSCAPING: Use native plants in your landscaping. Consider replacing some of the lawn turf with “bee lawn” plantings. Create a “layered” landscape—canopy trees, shrubs, grasses which provide food and shelter for birds. If you can, let dead trees stand as they provide protection and lots of insects for food. Brush piles may look messy, but they are great hiding places for birds. Instead of clearing the garden in the fall, wait until mid-May as plant debris provides food and nesting materials for beneficial insects and birds.