Nebraska has over 450 bird species which call our state home - for at least part of the year. Each of these bird species has unique habitat, habitats, and conservation needs. There are countless organizations, agencies and groups which are dedicated to helping birds and bird conservation in Nebraska. You, too, can help our fine feathered friends. Here are a few tips for helping bird species:
Put Up A Feeder
There are numerous different kinds of feeders - tube feeders, ground feeders, hopper feeders, hummingbird feeders and the well-known soda bottle feeder. No matter what kind of feeder you put up, it will likely help at least some bird species. You can choose a feeder based on what birds you already see in the area, or you can place a feeder to attract a specific bird species. Take some time to do your research about the proper kind and placement of your feeder. And, once you place your feeder, be sure to keep it clean and full!
Give them Water
Even more important than food, water is essential for the survival of birds. Water not only keeps birds hydrated, it helps them stay clean, too. And a clean bird is better able to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It is best if you can provide a consistent source of clean water throughout the year. In the winter, try using a bird bath heater to keep water from freezing. Clean your bird bath regularly to avoid algae and dirt from accumulating.
In addition to food and water, birds need shelter. Shelter can be in the form of ground cover like native tall grasses, a pine tree or leaving a few dead branches in your healthy tree. Or, you can always provide man-made shelters such as bird houses, nesting roosts and nesting boxes.
Use Less Chemicals
Whether you are using insecticides, fungicides, herbicides or a general pesticide, all chemicals have an effect on the environment... and, in turn, on birds. Many birds rely on insects for food (especially during breeding season). So, using insecticides will not only cause fewer insects for birds to eat, but also introduce chemicals into a bird's body on the insects birds do find. The same concept is true of flowers and seeds when using herbicides and many pesticides. The fewer chemicals you can use, the better.
Landscape for Wildlife
Although putting up a feeder is a great way to provide food, consider planting native plants that will provide a constant supply of seeds, berries and food for birds. Some good choices in Nebraska include: gooseberry, elderberries, wild plum, thistles, coneflowers, native grasses. Landscaping for wildlife also includes providing shelter from pine trees, leaving a few dead branches in a large tree and native grasses.
Keep Cats Indoors
House cats are predators of many songbirds. In fact, some studies state that cats are the #1 killer of songbirds - above cars and chemicals. Keeping cats indoors is not only good for birds, but it is more safe for cats. did you know that Great Horned Owls can easily kill a cat!
Prevent Window Strikes
Take a look at a window on a bright, sunny day. What do you see? You likely see yourself! Windows are great at reflecting the world in front of them. Unfortunately for birds, this means they see trees, sky and clouds.... not the window. Window strikes - when a bird hits a window - can often be deadly. And, even if a bird does survive the initial window strike, they are often stunned and lay below the window for several minutes. During this time, it is not unusual for a bird to fall prey to a predator (like a cat!). To prevent birds from hitting your windows, you can hang wind socks or steamers in front of the window to warn birds. Or, you can purchase mesh window nets which hang a few inches in front of your window and prevent a full-speed strike.
Donate to a Bird-related Conservation Fund
There are lots of amazing organizations and groups across the country which do fantastic work conserving not only birds, but their habitat, too. Consider making a donation to one of these organization to help their efforts in your area.
Take someone birding
"In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught."
-- Baba Dioum
The greatest thing you can do to help birds is to help create citizens who are fascinated by birds, care about bird conservation, and take actions to ensure birds are around for all future generations. This starts with a simple birding adventure - big or small!