Three Ways You Can Help Migrating Birds This Fall

It’s fall migration time in Douglas County.  From Vaux Swifts to Great Egrets, the Umpqua Basin serves as a stopping point for many bird species making their way south, but these migrants face myriad man-made obstacles.  There are proactive ways you can help stoop bird deaths–birds are incredibly adaptive and resilient–so even a little effort on our part can help them go a long way.

Make Your Windows Obvious

Anywhere from 100 million to 1 billion birds a year are estimated to die as a result of impacts with clear or reflective glass. Windows can confuse birds in a couple of ways. Sometimes the glass reflects the trees and surrounding landscape, causing the bird to think the reflection is just more of the natural world. Sometimes the window can make it appear that there is an open space on the other side. Either way, the result is often the same: a lethal impact. Preventing these strikes, however, is fairly easy with these actions.

For starters, putting decals on your windows can drastically reduce bird strikes. And because birds are used to darting through narrow spaces, make sure you use multiple decals close enough together to actually deter them (despite what you often see, just one or two in the middle of a window won’t do). The gaps between each decal shouldn’t be bigger than 2″x4″ inches, or no larger than the space a sparrow would fly through.

If colored decals don’t appeal, you can use films with dots on them, strips of translucent tape, or opt for UV stickers, which are less apparent to the human eye but remain highly visible to birds (when applying them, still stick to the same spacing guidelines). You could also get a little creative, putting up streamers, beads, or making your own bird decorations that could also prevent strikes. And for the slackers out there, here’s something to feel good about: Dirty windows also reduce impacts. So next time you are starting to feel behind on your chores, give yourself a break. You’ll also be giving one to the birds.

Go Lights Out

Another easy way to prevent bird impacts is simply to keep your household, apartment or business lights off from dusk until dawn. Many birds that migrate during the night—and some of their food sources like moths—use the stars and moon to help guide their way. But now that the landscape below them twinkles with artificial light, birds can easily be confused. Studies suggest that up to a million birds a year can die because of light pollution. Sometimes the birds are attracted to or disoriented by the lights and run into a building or window.

Become an Advocate

Making windows visible and turning off the lights will certainly help birds, but perhaps the best thing you can do for them is to become an advocate on their behalf. Speaking at city planning meetings, making appointments with your elected representatives, and letter writing are all ways to possibly affect much larger changes.

You, too, can make this sort of impact, and an easy way to start is by writing letters informing others of the problem—and the solutions. Many people are unaware that lights pose such a threat to birds, so this one act could make an extraordinary difference. In fact, shutting the lights off in a single building reduced bird deaths by 80 percent, one study found.