10 Ways to Help Birds This Summer
Perhaps you already followed the 10 pointers to help birds in the spring, or you provided nesting material to birds in your garden. But now that it’s officially summer, what can you do to help our feathered friends?
During summertime, billions of birds throughout North America are busy raising their young and already preparing for migration. “The next three months are critical,” says American Bird Conservancy President George Fenwick. “Some studies suggest that perhaps as many as half of all migrating birds do not make it back home, succumbing to various threats along the way. Our birds need all the help they can get.”
While birds have instincts (and smarts—a recent study found crows are as smart as seven-year-olds), it doesn’t mean they can’t use some assistance with their life-sustaining tasks. “Simple instinct is not always enough to keep the birds alive given the enormous tracts of habitat that have become suburban sprawl; the draining of waterways; the loss of biomass to pesticides; air and water contamination; and other threats such as window glass, cats and wind turbines,” continues Fenwick.
Here are American Bird Conservancy’s recommended top 10 ways you can help birds breed successfully and prepare for fall migration.
1. Leave baby birds alone.
If you find a baby bird out of its nest, don’t pick it up or bring it indoors. Although people mean well by “rescuing” the baby birds they find, in almost all cases, the parents are nearby and know best how to care for their young. An exception is injured birds, which can be taken to a local wildlife rehabilitator for treatment.
2. Ensure dogs and cats stay away from young birds.
Free-roaming cats kill billions of birds every year, taking an especially high toll on fledglings. Loose dogs also have an impact on nesting birds; for example, roaming dogs are suspected of recently wiping out a colony of threatened Least Terns in Florida. Keep your pets contained, and be especially cautious near beach-nesting birds.
3. Keep things fresh.
Your birdbath or other water feature should be cleaned regularly and kept filled with fresh water. Hummingbird feeders also need special attention, as hummingbirds will be switching back from an insect-rich diet to nectar in preparation for flights south in the fall. Be sure to thoroughly clean hummingbird feeders and replace the sugar water before it ferments—usually within three to seven days depending on the heat and sun.
4. Maintain your land in a bird-friendly fashion.
Consider letting some of your yard or other property go “wild,” or garden with native plants. Even small wild areas act as sources of food and shelter for birds through the summer. Avoid or minimize tree trimming to prevent disturbance to nesting birds. Where possible, avoid mowing grass in large fields and roadsides until after July to enable ground-nesting grassland birds to safely fledge.
5. Be a good landlord.
If you’re lucky enough to have swallows or phoebes nesting on your porch or carport, keep the nest intact. The birds will be gone soon enough, and in the meantime, they will help you out by eating hundreds of insects each day. If you have active nest boxes, clean them out after the young have fledged. Old nesting material attracts parasites and can be a source of disease.
6. Don’t spray: Stay away from pesticides.
Reconsider using pesticides, since even products labeled as “safe” will likely have negative consequences on birds. For example, many home and garden products include neonicotinoids, or neonics, which have been found to be deadly to both bees and birds in even minute amounts. See this list of products to avoid from our friends at the Center for Food Safety.
7. Celebrate good times … without balloons.
When weddings, graduations and other parties are on your list of to-do’s, put balloons on your list of don’ts. Birds can become entangled in the long ribbons; individuals have been found hanging from trees or asphyxiated. Birds may also ingest the deflated balloon itself, which can eventually block the digestive tract and cause the animal to starve.
8. Turn the outdoor lights out.
Review your outdoor lighting for unnecessary disturbance to night-flying birds (as well as wasted energy). Bright artificial lights can disorient migrating birds and make collisions with windows, buildings and other structures more likely. Consider putting steady burning lights on motion sensors. Or, if your outdoor lighting needs permit, consider blue and green LED lights as they are less distracting to night-migrating birds.
9. Be a bird-friendly boater.
If you’re boating, avoid disrupting birds. Boats operated in proximity to nesting birds can cause behavioral changes, even leading to nest abandonment and failure in some cases. If you notice congregations of birds, steer clear to enable them to spend their energy on gathering food and raising their young.
10. Gone fishing? Remember the birds.
Discard fishing line properly in trash receptacles, since entanglement in line is a common and preventable source of bird mortality. If you accidentally hook a bird, don’t cut the fishing line. Instead, net the bird, cut the barb off the hook, and push it backward to remove. Just as important, be sure to use only nonlead fishing gear. Scores of birds suffer mortal poisoning from ingesting lead weights in fishing gear.
Starlings enjoying a water bath. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Why not take these simple steps to protect birds—and enjoy some birdwatching in your backyard at the same time? (And if you’re a true bird junkie, check out the 100 rarest birds in the world and the five types of birds your grandchildren may never see but wish they could.)
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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