For more than 57 million U.S. households, watching birds at their feeders can produce a zen-like calm in an otherwise crazy day. But sadly, this source of serenity is in jeopardy.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports 14% of all birds species, or 1 in every 7, is in peril. Currently, 290 species of birds in the Americas are either endangered or critically endangered. And in the last 50 years, the Americas have lost 10 species forever.
There are, however, national and international efforts being taken to mitigate the threats birds are facing. Even so, there is always more we can do.
Here, you’ll find 3 easy things you can do to live a more bird-friendly life.
1. Enjoy Bird-friendly Coffee
With concern for the environment growing, coffee drinkers are asking where their coffee comes from and how it’s grown. Of the top 50 coffee-producing countries, 18 are in South and Central America. Five of those are in the top 10: Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, and Guatemala.
But there’s a problem.
According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
Many of our most colorful songbirds… spend five months of the year in and around shade coffee plantations in Mexico and Central and South America—but only if the birds can find them. Shade-coffee plantations… are increasingly being deforested, leaving North American migrants with fewer places to spend the winter.
Three-quarters of the world’s coffee farmers clear millions of acres to grow coffee in full sunlight. This practice contributes to soil erosion, and their use of pesticides and fertilizers poison the land and water.
Fortunately, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC), which is part of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., has created a Bird Friendly Certification for coffee.
What is Bird Friendly Coffee?
Instead of growing in fields that have been cleared, Bird Friendly coffee grows beneath shade trees. These trees absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and, consequently, reduce its contribution to climate change. They also provide habitat for birds, including migratory species from the U.S. and Canada.
Bird Friendly is the strictest standard for shade-grown, organic coffees. Criteria include foliage cover, tree canopy height, degree of insect biodiversity, and no use of pesticides.
Furthermore, bird Friendly coffee is 100% pure—there’s no mixing of certified beans with other beans.
Making a Difference
The program is having an impact. As of 2018, the SMBC has:
- recruited 4,600+ coffee producers
- established Bird Friendly farms in 12 countries
- protected greater than 31,000 acres of land
- championed the growth of 19 million pounds of Bird Friendly coffee
Countries best known for coffee are also among the world’s poorest. However, Bird Friendly coffee farmers earn more for their crops than others. With certification comes access to premium market prices. Moreover, the timber and fruit trees on shade farms provide farmers with additional income.
Who would guess your morning cup of Joe could save birds, improve the environment, and help impoverished farmers?
The SMBC website explains where you can buy Bird Friendly coffee.
2. Keep Your Cat Indoors
Most bird lovers know they’ve a responsibility to keep their cats indoors. In fact, it’s an imperative.
Free-ranging cats—including feral, stray, and household cats—kill 1.4-3.7 billion birds each year. (A bit of perspective… 1 billion seconds equals 30 years).
Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimate 15% of all bird deaths are caused by cats.
See also: The Birding Effect
10 Tips for Keeping Mr. Whiskers Happy Indoors
The Humane Society offers 10 tips for keeping indoor cats happy and healthy:
- Keep kittens indoors. As they get older, they’ll be content to stay there.
- Provide a screened porch. Your cat can enjoy the outdoors without being a threat or getting injured.
- Use a leash. Yes, you can. And it’s easiest to start when they are young.
- Install a window perch. A perch in a sunny window allows cats to observe the outdoors and soak up some sun.
- Buy a cat tree. Cat trees save space, permit climbing and scratching, and provide entertainment.
- Play with toys. Toys that allow cats to stalk, chase, pounce, and kick are great fun. If you’re not there to supervise, leave a cardboard box or paper bag with the handles removed and they’ll entertain themselves.
- Grow cat grass. Bring a little of the outdoors in. You can purchase edible cat grass in pet stores and grow it in flowerpots.
- Be safe. The opportunity to dash out a door or window can be enticing. Make sure your cat has a quick-release collar to avoid accidental choking and an ID tag.
- Microchip your cat. Lost pets with microchips are 20 times more likely to be reunited with their owners. Talk with your vet.
- Be clean. Clean litter boxes help lessen bacteria that can cause illness.
3. Avoid Pesticides
Avoiding pesticides may be the greatest contribution you can make to living a bird-friendly lifestyle.
Neonicotinoids are the most used—and among the most toxic—pesticides on Earth.
- They’ve contributed to the massive die-offs of honeybees.
- Their implicated in the declines of the world’s aquatic invertebrates and insect biodiversity, upon which the world’s entire eco-system is dependent.
- Neonicotinoids are so deadly, a single neonicotinoid-coated seed can fatally poison a songbird.
You can help. Don’t use neonicotinoids or any toxic chemicals in your garden. Many undesirable garden bugs are food for birds, so let them do their thing! There are also effective natural solutions you can use to control garden pests.
Ask if the plants you want to buy were grown or treated with neonicotinoids. Many large retailers, including Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Walmart, True Value, Costco, Kroger, and Whole Foods either already have or are pledged to end their use of neonicotinoids.