Threats to Birds
Detailed information on threats to birds appeared in an article of the October–December 2013 issue of the Vermilion Flycatcher magazine. These threats were updated in the October–December 2016 issue.
The State of the Birds
The latest State of the Birds report is available at this website, where you can download a PDF. This report is compiled by NABCI (North American Bird Conservation Initiative), which is a coalition of 23 state and federal agencies, private conservation organizations and other bird initiatives.
Habitat loss is the single biggest threat to bird populations. Habitat loss occurs when natural open space, with native plant communities, is converted into farms, pastures, industry, suburbs and urban areas.
There are several things you can do to counteract habitat loss. First, ask your government representatives to control urban sprawl. Cities can, through regulation of growth, be denser and more efficient, creating better communities with more services closer to where you live. This protects natural open space on the outskirts of town from being lost to urban sprawl. You can also counteract habitat loss but creating urban landscapes that are friendly to birds in Tucson Audubon’s Habitat at Home Program.
Second, reduce your consumption of meat. Vast lands are converted from natural plant communities to farms to raise food to feed livestock, and other lands are converted to pastures, feedlots and industrial livestock areas.
Third, reduce your use of fossil fuel-generated energy. Large areas of natural open space are strip-mined for fossil fuels to burn in electricity generating plants. Also, the safety for the environmental of “fracking” to produce natural gas has been questioned.
Climate change is likely to be the second most potent threat to birds. New studies are trying to predict the impact of climate change on the survival of various species of birds and their future ranges.
A national-level study by the Audubon Society predicts effects of climate change on North American bird species and suggests that 314 species are imperiled.
Read a memo on local climate change effects from Pima County administrator Chuck Huckleberry to the Pima County Board of Supervisors (February 5, 2010): The effects of climate change on natural resources in Pima County.
The latest studies estimate that outdoor cats (feral and domestic) kill over 2 billion birds and 12 billion small mammals every year in the United States. These studies suggest that even well-fed domestic cats with bells on their collars kill birds if they are allowed to go outside. On average they only bring back remains of their prey 20% of the time, so they are likely killing animals even if you don’t see the leftovers on your doorstep.
Cats are originally from parts of the eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa. They are not native here. They have been introduced by humans into the environment. They are yet another way that humans have altered North American ecosystems.
A simply and very effective remedy is to always keep your cats indoors. See the Cats Indoors program of the American Bird Conservancy. This is healthier for cats as well, because it prevents them from being hit by cars, attacked by coyotes, dogs and other cats, and from contracting diseases. Tucson Audubon is investigating the best approach to mitigating the effect of feral cats on birds and other wildlife as well.
Large urban buildings kill many migrating birds due to their lit up windows at night. Tucson Audubon will work to get these lights turned off.
But while tall buildings get a lot of bad press and need to be designed better to reduce window strikes, most bird deaths from window strikes happen in the millions and millions of homes in our country. Here are some things you can do to minimize window strikes.
- Go to the American Bird Conservancy’s 2015 study of the products that work the best to reduce window strikes in your home. Scroll down and click on “consumer products.”
- Traditional window decals are only effective if you place them 2-4 inches apart, because birds will try to fly through the areas between the decals. Translucent decals, that reflect ultra-violet light that birds can see, work better. Products by “WindowAlert” are available in the Tucson Audubon Nature Shop.
- Exterior window screens or cords break up the apperance to birds of an unobstructed flight path. Acopian Bird Savers are parachute cords that hang down across the outside of your windows–you can order them online or get instructions for making your own at Acopian Bird Savers. Other exterior screening is available at The Bird Screen Company.
- Close blinds or curtains when possible.
- Keep bird feeders 30 feet from windows.
- Keep indoor house plants away from windows
- Experiment with outdoor shade near the window and indoor lighting to try to minimize the window’s reflection of the landscape, which is what birds often see. Also if there are windows on the other side of the house keep curtains or shades drawn so that there is not the appearance that a bird can fly through the house.
- The Tucson Audubon Nature Shops carry two products that can be applied to the ouside of windows which appear transparent from the inside but which, on the outside, reflect infrared light that birds can see. These products consist of transparent decals and a liquid that can, from time to time, be dabbed or smeared onto the outside of the window.
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Industrial Wind Installations
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Conservation Action AlertVillages at Vigneto
The Villages at Vigneto ("Vigneto") is a large, Tuscany-inspired development proposed by El Dorado Benson, LLC ("El Dorado") on over 12,000 acres of private land located south of Benson, AZ, pop. 5,100. Vigneto will include 27,760 new homes, commercial developments, golf courses, parks, vineyards, lakes, orchards, resorts, and an extensive road and utility network and is intended to attract up to 70,000 new residents.TAKE ACTION NOW