Published on June 23, 2023
Let’s Work Together and Give Birds a Chance
By Dr. Charles Clarkson
With the alarming rate of avian decline, we all need to do more, talk more, and engage more in our communities to support bird conservation. Each of us should focus on conservation efforts that we can do in our daily lives which will have lasting impacts to our bird communities.
As conservation organizations such as the Audubon Society of Rhode Island work hard to determine the steps that need to be taken to reverse the declining trends in the bird species found across our state, it is imperative that we pay attention to those things that can be done now, at relatively low cost and effort, to help birds.
Some startling statistics that you may (or may not) already know and how you can help:
While hundreds of millions of birds die each year from building collisions, 44% of that mortality occurs at private residences. Use window decals at your home and place of work to minimize window strikes. Decals increase window avoidance by 47% when installed correctly (Swaddle et al. 2023). Purchase window decals at the Audubon Nature Shop or order online at asri.org/natureshop.
Certain offshore fishing techniques kill enormous numbers of large and rare birds, including many albatross species (of the 22 species of albatross, 21 are listed as species of concern because of drastic population declines). Gillnets alone kill approximately 400,000 seabirds each year (Glemarec et al. 2020). How the fish you eat are caught matters! For a Northeast Consumer Guide on choosing seafood that are farmed and fished in ways that support a healthy ocean, visit: seafoodwatch.org.
If you drink coffee, choose certified “bird-friendly” brands. Without this certification, coffee is generally produced by removing healthy, mature rainforest and planting sun tolerant coffee plants. This habitat loss contributes to declines in populations of both resident tropical bird species and those species that breed here in Rhode Island and overwinter in the tropics. Shade grown “bird-friendly” coffee farms maintain biodiversity by providing habitat for birds, insects, reptiles, mammals and amphibians (Williams et al. 2021). Purchase certified “bird friendly” coffee in the Audubon Nature Shop or order online at asri.org/coffee (see page 18.) Encourage others to do the same.
Cats (both domestic and feral) kill between 1 – 4 billion birds each year in the United States alone, have caused the extinction of 33 bird species on a global scale and kill over 1 million seabirds each year on oceanic islands. And the direct mortality is only part of the problem. As more cats invade habitats around the globe (and cat populations are increasing), more bird communities are having to alter behavior in the presence of a new predator threat. This can have profound population-level effects as it impacts adult and juvenile survival and clutch size. Keep your cats indoors and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
Knowledge is power and it is possible to have a measurable impact by changing your consumption habits and instituting small changes around your home. You can directly impact the state of our world’s birds. If we all row this boat in the same direction, we will get to a better place.
Dr. Charles Clarkson is the Director of Avian Research at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.