Migrating Birds Arriving Early

  • Monday, March 26, 2012
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
photo by Owen Deutsch
The warmer weather that much of the nation has been enjoying has brought out the springtime clothes a bit ahead of schedule and has also triggered the earlier-than-normal arrival of many migrating birds – much to the delight of the 45 million people who engage in birdwatching in the United States, and who now don’t need to wait for their spring ‘fix’.
“From what I am seeing and reading on the various web sites, it looks like much of the country is getting perhaps a one- to three-week-early arrival for many species.
In the nation’s capital, for example, we are already seeing Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in Rock Creek Park, Louisiana Waterthrush in Huntley Meadows in Northern Virginia, Tree and Rough-winged Swallows in Downtown DC, and numerous sightings of Eastern Phoebes all over the area,” said Jason Berry with American Bird Conservancy. And Mr. Berry would know, since last year, he set the modern day record for the number of bird species (218) sighted in DC over a one year period.
“We don’t know if the warm weather we’ve been seeing the past few months is related to climate change or is nothing more than one of the many weather anomalies that have occurred many times over thousands of years. If this kind of weather were to become the norm in the years to come, then certainly it would impact many, many species of birds. Some would be able to adjust, but unfortunately, many would not,” Mr. Berry said.
What this early spring means for birders is that if they hope to get a glimpse of a particular species that only migrates through their area during the spring and the fall migrations, they may have to get their binoculars and outdoor gear out earlier or they may miss out. And it also means many people who have backyard bird feeders stored away in the garage, may want to dig them out now and get them ready for use.
With that early migration and influx of birds to our backyards in mind, here is American Bird Conservancy’s Top Ten Tips to aid or protect birds that either are or soon will be, around your home.
10. Learn more about birds and support important conservation work—join a bird conservation group such as ABC.
9. Keep backyard feeders and bird baths clean to avoid disease. Replace the water every other day to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
8. Where possible, buy organic food to help increase the market for produce grown without the use of pesticides, which can be toxic to birds and other animals.
7. Reduce your carbon footprint—use a hand-pushed or electric lawnmower, carpool, use low energy bulbs and Energy Star appliances.
6. Donate old bird watching equipment such as binoculars or spotting scopes to local bird watching groups—they can get them to schools or to biologists in other countries who may not have the resources they need.
5. Create backyard habitat—if you have a larger yard, create a diverse landscape by planting native grasses, flowers, and shrubs that attract native birds. You will be rewarded by their beauty and song, and will have fewer insect pests as a result.
4. Drink shade-grown coffee—coffee certified as shade-grown leaves habitat available for our birds when wintering in South America. If your coffee shop or store does not sell shade-grown varieties, ask them why not.
3. Eliminate pesticides from your home and yard—even those pesticides that are not directly toxic to birds can pollute waterways and reduce insects that birds rely on for food. Avoid the use of rat poisons that can kill hawks and other birds that feed on the poisoned rodents.
2. Prevent birds hitting your windows by using ABC BirdTape, a low cost way to reduce bird collisions at home windows and glass doors. Collisions with glass constitute the biggest source of bird mortality, as many as one billion each year. Visit www.abcbirdtape.org to purchase a roll.
1. Keep your cat indoors—this is best for your cat as well as the birds, as indoor cats live an average of three to seven times longer. Cats are not native to the U.S. and are responsible for hundreds of millions of bird deaths each year. Even well fed cats kill birds, and bells on cats don’t effectively warn birds of cat strikes.

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