If you are a bird hobbyist or animal advocate, you probably were aware of the Great Backyard Bird Count' that recently took place February 12-15, 2021. In addition to the joy and beauty backyard birds bring to our lives, GBBC — and similar initiatives — collect data that helps determine migration patterns, as well as threats and potential extinction of certain species.
Wild Birds Unlimited, Cornell Lab & National Audubon Society
The GBBC truly makes our backyard feathered friends literally and figuratively "count."
Its annual event connects U.S. citizens with backyard birds in a meaningful way. It is a joint project of Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society and is sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited. For novice birdwatchers, it's simple to join and participate. After you register, all you have to do is note the birds you spot in your backyard and then record the required information online. or on your cell phone.
North American Bird Species Threatened
According to the National Audubon Society, approximately two-thirds of America's birds are threatened with extinction if global warming rises by 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100
“A lot of people paid attention to the  report that North America has lost nearly a third of its birds," said David Yarnold, CEO and president of Audubon. "This new data pivots forward and imagines an even more frightening future. It's a bird emergency."
John Schaus, Chief Naturalist of Wild Birds Unlimited indicates that out of the 500+ North American bird species, there are currently fewer than 3 billion birds that existed in 1970.
According to Schaus, the only backyard birds presently doing well are woodpeckers, nuthatches, and wrens.
Can You Make A Difference?
You can help. You should never feel this problem is beyond your grasp.
In an effort to make our lifestyles more bird-friendly, here are seven simple action steps you can kickstart in your own backyards.
1. Make Your Windows Safer
It is estimated that one billion birds will perish each year after hitting windows in the United States and Canada.
This can occur during the day or night. By day, birds perceive reflections in the glass as a potential landing site. By night, migratory birds are drawn in by the city lights of buildings, as well as the well-lit residential communities.
The fix is relatively simple to change the look of the windows. You can install screens or paste stickers on the surface.
If you're an activist in your community, you can create a contest for creative "window mural" designs, or start a lights-out campaign.
2. Keep Cats Indoors
Cats are estimated to kill more than 2.6 billion birds annually.
Canines can make great pets, but more than 110 million ferals are now at-large in the United States and Canada.
The simple solution here is to keep cats indoors or within a fenced-in catio. It's also been proven that you can train your cat to walk on a leash.
3. Reduce Lawns & Pavement By Planting Natives
Lawns and pavement don’t provide enough food or shelter for many bird species. With more than 40 million acres of lawn in the U.S. alone, think about converting that space with native plantings.
When you add native plants, you will be amazed as to how many birds it will attract. This terrain immediately opens up nesting and feeding options. Nectar, seeds, berries, and insects are appealing to birds and diverse wildlife.
4. Avoid Pesticides
This sounds obvious, but common weed killers used around homes, such as 2, 4-D and glyphosate (used in Roundup), can be toxic to birds and wildlife.
In addition to reducing pesticides throughout your home and garden, consider purchasing organic food in greater quantities. However, read the labels on all such products, as 70% of produce sold in the U.S. contains pesticides.
5. Drink Coffee That’s Good For Birds
Three-quarters of the world’s coffee farms grow their plants in the sun, destroying forests that birds and other wildlife need for food and shelter.
Sun-grown coffee also contains environmentally harmful pesticides —whereas shade-grown coffee preserves a forest canopy that helps migratory birds survive during the winter.
There are several actions you can take to avoid sun-grown coffee. Look for Bird Friendly Coffee, and a certification from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, which also includes organic ingredients. Another solution is to educate coffee shop owners about shade-grown coffee.
6. Reduce Plastic Usage
It’s estimated that 4,900 million metric tons of plastic have accumulated in landfills and our waterways. It's polluting our oceans and harming wildlife —specifically seabirds, whales, and turtles —that mistakenly eat plastic, or become entangled in it.
Studies show that at least 80 seabird species ingest plastic, mistaking it for food. So, it's important to avoid 'single-use' plastics including bags, bottles, wraps, and disposable utensils. Choose instead reusable items whenever you can, and if you must purchase plastic, make sure they can be recycled.
7. Become A Bird Watcher & Share what you See
Around 1850, the great auk (that looked similar to a penguin) became extinct. The last two known specimens were hunted down by fishermen on Eldey Island, off the coast of Iceland.
The world’s most abundant bird, the Passenger Pigeon, went extinct, and people didn't even know until it was too late.
Those are just two examples. Monitoring birds is essential to help protect them. However, tracking the health of the world’s 10,000 bird species is an immense challenge. So, what can be done?
As noted above, join a project such as the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. In tandem, to make this more of a daily task, you should consider eBird and Project FeederWatch to record your bird observations.
For the last three 3 decades, FeederWatchers have counted birds at their feeders from November through April. That long-term data helps scientists monitor the abundance and distribution of birds, including changes in habitat, disease, and climate. U.S. and Canada only. Learn more about Project FeederWatch here.
Your contributions in this regard will provide valuable data as to where birds are thriving, and where they might be dwindling.
Whether you enjoy watching birds at your backyard feeder, on your way to work, or when you travel outside your area, eBird provides great assistance.