It’s World Migratory Bird Day: Protect Our Feathered Friends

By: Diane MacEachern,

Migratory birds are so threatened they now get their own global holiday.

Every year, on or around May 10, scientific organizations, biologists and bird lovers everywhere hold events to raise awareness about the threats migrating birds face. The main partners behind the event include BirdLife International, Wetlands International, the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership, and the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation.

The 2016 World Migratory Bird Day event is focusing on the millions of birds being killed or lost every year. There’s no secret why:

* Loss or deterioration of habitat is making it impossible for many birds to survive the long distances they cover when they migrate because there is no place for them to shelter or find safe and unpolluted water to drink or food to eat. Disturbances or breaks in their “fly ways” throw migrating birds off course and may even upset their reproductive cycles.

* Illegal poaching, taking and trade is causing many birds to be captured in the wild and unlawfully sold to stores and vendors. Many birds do not survive in captivity.

* Hunting migrating birds is still condoned in many parts of the world, without regard to how seriously bird populations are being depleted. Keeping migrating birds as pets also undermines their ability to thrive. By some estimates, over a third of bird species worldwide are kept as pets, and around one in seven is hunted for food. It’s also estimated that between half a billion and one billion songbirds are hunted for sport and food each year in Europe alone, reports BirdLife International.

* Poisoning is an all too frequent occurrence, as lead ammunition continues to build up in the environment. Meanwhile, agricultural pesticides continue to poison birds on a large scale. Seabirds die after eating plastic and other junk and debris that ends up in the oceans. A veterinary drug used to medicate cattle and pigs is having a devastating effect on vultures and other birds that feed on carcasses.

 What Can You Do?

Support groups dedicated to protecting migratory birds. Organizations ranging from BirdLife International to the Audubon Society are working to pass laws, strengthen regulations and educate policy makers and the public about the need to protect migrating birds. You can support them with donations and by sending emails to your elected officials in favor of international treaties that are designed to keep birds and their migration routes safe.

Maintain your own bird-safe habitat. Many of the birds that arrive in your yard in spring and summer are traveling back from the regions where they overwintered. Some may stay put during the warm summer; others may just drop by on their way to the Arctic Circle, where millions of birds pass June, July and August. Either way, you can give them a boost by making fresh, clean water available in bird baths or ponds and by eliminating the use of pesticides, herbicides and other toxic chemicals in your yard.

Keep your cat indoors. Domestic cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year in the U.S. alone, making cats the biggest mortality threat to birds, says the American Bird Conservancy. If your cat must go outside, let it out at dusk, when most birds roost out of reach in trees, rather than during the day. Just make sure to get it in at night to keep it safe so it won’t be out prowling at dawn when the birds start to stir.

Buy organic, shade-grown coffee. Birds that overwinter in the tropic need non-toxic environments with plenty of trees and bushes to live in. Shade coffee plantations maintain large trees that provide essential habitat for wintering songbirds, says the National Wildlife Federation.

Prevent birds from hitting your windows and the windows of large office buildings. Birds can get confused if they see the sky, trees and other nature scenes reflected in glass.

Help birds recover. If you come across a bird that appears to be injured, the Humane Society recommends gently covering the bird with a towel, then placing it in a bag or box with air holes that is securely closed. Keep the bird warm and settled for about a half hour. If the bird can then fly away on its own, release it. If not, contact a local wildlife rehabilitation service to get their help.


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