Written by: Julie Tomita, Animal Care Manager
It is hard to believe that we have reached the end of the 2018 “Year of the Bird” campaign celebrating the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This was and continues to be a pivotal bird-protection law making it illegal to hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell birds listed as migratory birds. It protects nearly all native birds in the U.S, covering more than 1,000 species.
The “Year of the Bird” campaign may be ending but our work in raising awareness about their challenges in the wild is far from over. Birds are facing new and serious threats all over the world with over 200 species listed as critically endangered worldwide. Listed below are some examples of ways in which you can help! It’s easy to get involved in bird conservation and some of your most helpful actions begin at home.
10 Simple Ways to Help Birds:
1. Be a Citizen Scientist: Many conservation projects need helpers to gather data on birds and their habitat. Contact your local Nature Center or conservation organization to volunteer.
2. Prevent Bird Collisions with Your Windows: Some scientists estimate that birds flying into windows that reflect the scenery around them may be second only to habitat loss in accounting for bird deaths each year. Putting up curtains or window decals helps make the window visible to birds. Switching off the lights in your house at night not only helps prevent birds from colliding with your windows but also shrinks your energy bill! Hang bird feeders away from windows. Awnings can also shade your windows and reduce the reflections that birds mistake for trees and forests.
3. Buy Bird Friendly Products:You can help preserve bird habitat in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean by purchasing shade-grown coffee and chocolate. Shade coffee farms, which imitate native forests, provide food, shelter and nesting sites for more bird species than sun coffee farms.
4. Protect Birds from Pets: Keeping your cat indoors and your dog from straying saves millions of birds each year.
5. Plant Native Plants and Trees:Native plants provide food, nest sites, and cover for birds. You can talk to someone at your local garden center to find out which plant species are native to your area.
6. Say “No” to Plastics: Replace plastic bags with reusable grocery bags; replace plastic drinking bottles with reusable bottles and eliminate the use of plastic straws by purchasing a reusable metal or bamboo straw. Plastic trash on land and in our oceans can look like food to birds and other wildlife. Avoiding plastic bags, bottles and straws reduces plastic pollution, conserves resources and can save animal lives.
7. Teach Others about Birds: Share your love of birds with someone else in your life. That could mean going for a bird walk together or posting some of your favorite bird photos online. Talk to your friends about birds and teach people about the challenges that so many birds face. The more knowledge they have, the more empowered they are to help!
8. Avoid Chemicals: Birds may accidentally eat pesticide and herbicide pellets or prey that has been poisoned.
9. Support Conservation: Join a bird club or other conservation organization to learn more and contribute to protecting birds. Volunteer with organizations that preserve habitat and help birds and other wildlife.
10. Enjoy Nature: You don’t have to go far to enjoy and observe nature. You can go to a city, state or national park, a zoological park or your own back yard.
The Aviary team is fortunate to work with 145 species of birds ranging in size from finches measuring only a few inches to a 6 foot tall Emu named “Elaine”! Look for these birds and other amazing species the next time you visit ZooTampa at Lowry Park. And, if you happen to see any members of the Aviary team, feel free to ask questions. We love to chat about the birds!
I hope that you have enjoyed the monthly bird species profiles written by different members of the Aviary team at ZooTampa, and if you were not already a fan of our fine feathered friends, I hope you have gained a new love and respect for this incredibly diverse class of animals!