It is no secret that conservation is essential to preserve our resources, environment, and the birds we love. What is often secret, however, is just how easy conservation can be and how simple it can be to take steps to help birds. Conservation doesn’t have to mean attending big rallies, making hefty donations or volunteering for hours. There are simple, easy and immediate steps we can all take today – right this very minute – to help with bird conservation. Just as the ancient Chinese proverb “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” can apply to any big change, even the small steps we take toward bird conservation can have big impacts on the well-being and preservation of our feathered friends. There is no better day to get started than today. With these 75 easy options, there are sure to be steps you can take right now, no matter what your lifestyle or location may be. The birds will thank you!
See Also: The Birding Effect
Lower Your Carbon Footprint
We’ve heard about carbon footprints for years, and we know that greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide, are a strong factor in climate change. Climate change is
shifting birds’ ranges and disrupting migration cycles. The toxic pollution from many high-carbon activities has drastic impacts on bird habitat and environmental health. The more we lower the emission of these dangerous gasses, the better off birds will be. Lowering your carbon footprint is a great way to take the first steps toward daily bird conservation.
- Join a local work or school carpool, or investigate public transit options.
- Use self-powered transportation as much as you can – biking, walking, roller blading, etc.
- Consider working from home or using flex time to commute more efficiently.
- Combine regular errands into more efficient, multi-purpose trips to save fuel.
- Minimize air travel whenever possible, as it is incredibly inefficient with fuel.
- Keep your vehicle properly maintained, including the tires, for better fuel efficiency.
- Avoid driving with fast starts or abrupt stops that guzzle fuel and puff out plumes of carbon.
- Consider all the vehicles your resources use – shop locally so products don’t need to be shipped to you.
- Don’t idle your vehicle unnecessarily – today’s cars do not need to “warm up” to operate.
Lower Your Chemical Footprint
We all know what a carbon footprint is, but a chemical footprint is even worse for birds. Fortunately, it is also easier to change. Chemicals become runoff into local waterways and reservoirs. They also kill bugs, contaminate birds, change soil pH to affect plants, and otherwise toxify the environment. What is even more disturbing is how prevalent different chemicals – perfumes, dyes, poisons, fertilizers, etc. – are in our everyday lives. They’re in everything from cleaning supplies and soaps to cosmetics, lotions, and more. That does mean, however, that there are many easy steps we can take to trim our chemical footprints.
- Use smaller amounts of soaps, shampoos, and cleansers. Even slightly less makes a difference.
- Stop using pesticides and rodenticides that eliminate birds’ food sources.
- Skip perfumes entirely, as these unnecessary compounds serve no functional purpose.
- Choose eco-friendly cleaners without unnecessary dyes and perfumes.
- Don’t bother with fabric softener or dryer sheets, neither of which help clean clothes.
- If your yard or garden needs fertilizer, apply it appropriately so it is not wasted.
- Always dispose of chemicals, including medication, safely so they don’t leach into soil or water.
Reduce Single-Use Plastic
Plastic is a powerful material, useful for so many things – medical equipment, building materials, and uncountable daily conveniences. The problem is that plastic takes centuries to decay, and in the meantime, it presents an environmental hazard that we are only beginning to understand. What we do know is that plastic is choking landfills, flowing into the ocean, and being eaten by birds. This clogs their guts and causes internal injuries, impaction, and even starvation. Plastic strings, such as balloon ribbons and fishing line, tangle around birds and amputate limbs. Even small plastics, such as microplastics and shards from larger pieces, are being detected in insects. This means that plastic is found in every part of the feathered food chain, from hummingbirds to albatrosses to ospreys to songbirds. The less plastic we use, the better off all birds will be.
- Opt for reusable bottles and drink containers or refill bottles rather than buying new ones.
- Bring canvas, cloth, or mesh bags to grocery stores instead of using plastic bags.
- Skip the straw or bring your own reusable straw for drinks.
- Buy bottled goods such as shampoo, laundry soap, etc. in larger packages to reduce plastic.
- Bring reusable utensils for lunches so you don’t use throwaway forks and spoons.
- Store leftovers and sandwiches in reusable containers instead of single-use plastic bags.
- Use reusable razors instead of disposables that end up in the trash.
- Opt for cardboard or paper options if possible, such as with cotton swabs or tampon applicators.
- Pick up litter whenever and wherever possible, especially plastic, and recycle or dispose of it.
Water is essential for all life, including birds, but it is a finite, limited resource. Birds make use of all types of water, including freshwater, brackish water, and saltwater. The more water we can protect, the more there will be available for birds to use. Fortunately, the steps for saving water are some of the easiest and most effective we can take every day. Every drop we conserve is another drop that a thirsty bird might drink, a bird might use for bathing and preening, or provide nourishment for plants that provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds around the world.
- Ensure there are no leaks in toilets, sinks, showers, or appliances.
- Run dishwashers and washing machines only when full, and use water-saving settings.
- Don’t flush every time if possible – “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” to save water.
- Turn off faucets when shaving or brushing teeth.
- Take showers instead of baths, or try to shorten showers by just a minute or two.
- Rewear clothing and reuse towels slightly so they do not need washing as often.
- Heat water on the stove rather than running the faucet for hot water.
- Minimize or eliminate lawn irrigation, or use rain sensitive settings for automatic sprinklers.
- Don’t wash what isn’t dirty, such as not washing your car every week.
- Plant drought-resistant plants in your landscaping so they don’t require as much water.
Electricity may seem like an unlimited and clean resource, but in fact no power source, no matter how eco-friendly it may seem, is ever 100 percent “green.” Coal-fired plants must use destructive mining, fracking, and other means to get fuel, and they emit greenhouse gasses. Solar plants usurp habitat with extensive panel arrays, and improperly positioned panels may start fires or burn wildlife, including birds. Wind turbines disrupt critical migration flyways and pose collision threats for birds of all sizes. Hydroelectric plants divert water sources from their natural cycles and can destroy local habitats. Nuclear plants house some of the most potent toxins, and are at risk for catastrophic disasters that can contaminate the environment for hundreds of miles. But the less we use electricity, the more we can lower these risks and help bird conservation.
- Unplug electronics and chargers when not in use.
- Only recharge devices when batteries are truly low.
- Turn off lights and ceiling fans whenever leaving a room.
- Avoid partial loads and only run the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer when full.
- Skip the dryer entirely if possible and line dry clothes in the sun for free.
- Turn off the heated dry cycle of the dishwasher and let dishes air dry instead.
- Monitor the thermostat and adjust it by 1-2 degrees for simple savings you won’t mind.
- Use natural light whenever possible, rather than turning on more lights.
- Unscrew redundant bulbs in large light fixtures to use less electricity.
- Use window coverings – shades, blinds, etc. – to keep your home cooler in the summer.
- Cook dinner (or dessert!) in a slow cooker instead of the oven or microwave.
Turn Off Lights
While turning off extra lights is a key part of saving electricity, this action is so very vital to bird conservation that it deserves special mention. Particularly during migration, nighttime lights can disorient birds, causing them to fly into buildings with fatal force. Even if the birds do not collide with structures, they can become exhausted from circling around light sources without finding resting space. While many urban areas have Lights Out programs during peak migration periods, every birder can do their part to preserve dark skies and help birds find their way.
- Turn off all outdoor lights on porches and decks in spring and fall so birds aren’t confused.
- If lights are necessary, opt for shielded bulbs that point downward so the light is deflected.
- Remove or dim landscape lighting so it does not create visual distractions for migrating birds.
- Close blinds, curtains, or other coverings so indoor lights are not shining outside at night.
Recycle Everything Possible
Recycling is an important part of conserving resources and minimizing waste that ends up in landfills. But recycling is much more than putting newspapers and cardboard boxes out by the side of the road or taking soda cans to a recycling center. When materials are recycled, there is less need for the new production of additional goods, which in turn leads to less use of virgin resources, which means less habitat destruction. Furthermore, recycling raises awareness about how wasteful society can be and encourages more personalized conservation.
- Participate in all municipal recycling programs, both curbside and at collection points.
- Unsubscribe from unwanted mailings and catalogs so you never receive them in the first place.
- Know what to recycle, such as what plastics in addition to bags are collected at grocery stores.
- Donate usable items to thrift stores or charities rather than trashing them.
- Shop at thrift stores whenever possible to give items a second life instead of becoming trash.
- Get creative with recycling, such as using old calendars as wrapping paper.
- Contact schools and libraries about unusual materials they may use for craft or art projects.
- Compost waste food scraps and other suitable materials to use in your garden or landscape.
Eat for the Birds
The foods we eat can have a tremendous impact on bird habitat, not only because the crops need room to be grown and livestock needs room to be raised, but also with how that food may be packaged and shipped to grocery stores. Packaging will use plastic and other materials, while shipping requires fossil fuels to get food from one point to another. The more aware you are of the food you eat, the better choices you can make to eat a bird-friendly diet, no matter what is on your plate.
- Choose shade-grown varieties of coffee and cocoa that preserve tropical habitats for birds.
- Shop at local farmers’ markets that don’t require as much shipping to bring food to you.
- Consider eating less meat occasionally to lower the impact of livestock on different habitats.
- Grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs in a garden or even in simple containers.
- Minimize food waste with creative cooking and by using up leftovers whenever possible.
- Buy foods in larger packages or bulk containers to minimize packaging in the long run.
- Avoid single-serving packages that are wrapped in extra plastic or other unnecessary packaging.
See Also: The Benefits of Bird Feeding
Plant Bird-Friendly Habitat
Birds can thrive in many different types of habitats, including urban and suburban areas, if those areas are thoughtfully planted and cared for with birds in mind. No matter how big or small your yard may be, there are easy steps you can take to protect all types of birds.
- Choose native plant varieties whenever possible, as they will be more recognizable to birds.
- Plant natural food sources – seeds, berries, fruits – in your yard so birds can always find a snack.
- Let your lawn grow a little longer so grass-loving birds can take advantage of it.
- Allow dead trees to safely stand and provide shelter for cavity-nesting bird species.
- Use organic mulches that birds can search through or use for nesting material.
- Minimize or eliminate pesticide use and let birds provide natural pest control instead.
- Plant in layers with flowers, trees, and shrubs birds can use year-round for the best results.
Spread the Word
No matter how many small steps you take to protect birds, they won’t go far if no one else notices. By being bold – though not rude or overbearing – about your conservation steps, you will be a fine and easy example to others so they may take their own simple steps toward bird conservation.
- Be proud of your conservation steps in public – refusing straws, pulling out cloth bags, etc. – so others will see how easy it is and how convenient it can be to take these steps.
- Share resources with others, such as giving reusable items like canvas bags, reusable straws, or convenient containers as thoughtful gifts.
- Offer to share your steps with others, such as arranging a carpool, combining errands, sharing bulk supplies, or giving homegrown produce as gifts.
With one small step at a time, we can all make bird conservation happen!