GUEST COLUMN: Cats are the biggest threat to migratory birds

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According to one study, approximately 269 million birds are killed and two million nests are destroyed each year in Canada due to human activities.

The following is a guest column submitted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada
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In the spring, we welcome the return of migrating birds to Canada to breed. A few billion birds of over 400 species breed in Canada each year.

Before we know it, young birds will leave their nests, awkwardly learning to navigate the world around them. Like me, you might like to watch them from your window.

One day a few springs ago, I heard a “thud” against my window and walked over to find a dazed and disoriented young bird wandering in the grass below. This bird was lucky; he was probably trying to fly off the lawn where his siblings were feeding when he hit the window. He quickly recovered and flew away. But not all birds are so lucky.

Millions of birds die each year in collisions with buildings, especially during migration. But it doesn’t have to be that way. These collisions are entirely preventable with a little awareness and action. And the other major threats to birds are also entirely preventable.

There is no doubt that habitat loss is the greatest threat to birds, but the overall impact of habitat loss on bird populations is difficult to measure. Other threats are easier to quantify.

An estimated 269 million birds are killed and two million nests are destroyed each year in Canada due to human activities. a study. Of these, approximately 196 million birds are killed each year by free-ranging cats (domestic or feral). Collisions with homes, buildings, power lines and vehicles account for 64 million deaths and pesticides three million deaths annually.

How you can help support the birds in your own backyard

  1. Keep your cat tethered outside or build an outdoor enclosure for it. Learn more about how to keep cats and birds safe.
  2. Protect the windows of your home from birds by covering them with a pattern of marks. A total of 35% of bird collisions with human structures come from collisions with windows in houses. only 3% of collisions occur with commercial buildings, 40% with transmission lines and 21% with vehicles. The birds do not understand that the trees and the sky reflected in the windows are not real. Examine your windows from different angles and at different times of the day to determine if the reflection may pose a risk to birds. Learn more about window collisions and how to make your windows bird proof.
  3. Avoid using pesticides in your garden, and if you must use them, do so responsibly. Learn more about the effects of pesticides on birds and responsible use of pesticides.
  4. Plant native plants in your garden and yard that birds love. Rather than cleaning up your garden and yard in the fall, consider leaving plants over winter for birds to enjoy as food and shelter. For example, waxwings and robins can feed on leftover berries, and chickadees and nuthatches can feed on sunflower seeds. Learn more about gardening for birds in Canada.

You can also get involved in bird conservation through community science initiatives or supporting conservation groups that support birds or their habitats. For example, the Nature Conservancy of Canada protects many Important Bird Areas Across the country. Also take the time to learn about the birds and their migration. the Cornell Ornithology Lab, Audubon and Birds Canada are great resources.

This spring, I hope you take the time to enjoy the wonder of migration and think about what you can do to support the birds in your own backyard. I have learned from experience that many house windows are not bird proof and have since taken steps to ensure they are. With a little awareness and effort, our actions can go a long way towards reducing the main threats to birds.

Learn more about the ways you can be for the birds on the Nature Conservancy of Canada website. Small acts of conservation.

Samantha Knight is National Science Manager at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

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