Birds fill our lives with their beauty and their sweet songs, which are also known to reduce stress and improve mood.
With how incredible birds are, it’s no surprise that an estimated 45 million people in the United States alone carve out time to watch, appreciate, and enjoy them in their natural habitats every year.
Unfortunately, despite people’s undeniable love for these tiny songsters, many human-caused actions are leading to their suffering and death.
Make sure you’re not contributing to the careless cruelty by taking the following 10 actions to help save birds!
1. Don’t Let Your Cats Roam Outdoors Unsupervised.
The American Bird Conservatory (ABC) estimates that roaming cats kill billions of birds every year — including well-fed, mostly-house cats. Lady Freethinker also encourages people to keep their companion cats indoors to protect them from disease, parasites, cars, toxins, cruelty, and even death. If your cat wants to go outside, try teaching him or her to walk on a leash using a lightweight leash and a harness (not a collar, as they could slip out and escape.) Then, pick a safe outdoor area to explore together. That way, your cat, birds, and other wildlife will remain safe.
2. Nix Commercial Pesticides and Rodenticides.
Many legal pesticides and rodenticides contain slow-acting poisons that cause rats and mice to endure painful and prolonged suffering before they crawl out into the open and die. Birds who scavenge the corpses, including bald eagles and hawks, then can become secondarily poisoned to the point of sickness and death. Products containing Brodifacoum and neonicotinoids are some of the worst poisons out there for bird health. There are very effective humane, no-kill mouse and rat traps out there that will allow you to catch rodents and release them somewhere else. Try more humane alternatives, such as companion planting, soaps, biocontrols (like releasing ladybugs for certain garden visitors!), or some of these other ideas that will help — not hurt — birds and the environment.
3. Don’t Feed Bread to Ducks Or Other Wild Birds!
Although many people may have grown up feeding stale bread to ducks or geese at duck ponds, the carbohydrate-packed food isn’t good for them, and actually is the equivalent of feeding children candy, according to numerous organizations. Other foods like crackers, chips, donuts, and popcorn also don’t contain the nutrients wild birds need to thrive. Feeding wild birds these foods can create overcrowding at ponds, increased territorial aggression, and improper nutrition. Leftover food also can create pollution or attract other wildlife, like mice and rats or insects. Other, toxic foods you should never feed wild birds include green potatoes, onions, avocado, iceberg lettuce, beans and nuts. Instead, try feeding ducks cracked corn or duck pellets (available at farm supply stores), birdseed, or defrosted peas or corn kernels — although make sure you only supply what they can eat in that one feeding!
4. Don’t Release Balloons.
Birds can mistake bright pieces of balloons as food. Once inside the bird, the soft material can lead to suffocation, starvation, injury, and death, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Other studies report that soft debris, like balloon material, actually is more hazardous to songbirds than the bits of hard plastic that, ingested, also can kill them. Birds also can become entangled in the strings attached to balloons. Many more compassionate but still fun alternatives to balloon releases include planting a memorial garden, decorating with garden spinners or pinwheels, and blowing bubbles (or giant bubbles!) Check out some more alternative ideas here.
5. Don’t Fish! And Pick Up Discarded Line And Hooks If You See Them.
Numerous birds suffer injury and death from improperly discarded fishing twine and hooks every year, with wildlife rehabilitators reporting barbs stuck in legs or throats causing serious injuries, and bird legs tightly snared in tangled twine that sometimes needed amputation (or that became severed on their own).
6. Stop Birds From Hitting Your Windows!
An estimated 1 billion birds die from window strikes in the United States each year, according to the Cornell Lab. Daytime collisions can happen if birds see a reflection of vegetation or through the glass to indoor potted plants, while nighttime lights can disorient flyers. Hanging tape strips, window screens, external shutters, shades or awnings, washable window or tempera paint, decals, and wind chimes can save birds’ lives! You can also get fancy and make “Zen” curtains to stop fatal bird collisions!
7. Don’t Cut Down Trees!
Spring and summer are nesting seasons for birds. Wildcare, a California-based wildlife hospital, reports they have taken in many orphaned and injured birds whose nests were damaged when people cut down or trimmed their trees. Wildcare encourages people who “must” cut down trees for reported safety reasons to avoid nesting season and to contract with a company with a dedicated commitment to wildlife safety.
8. Speak Out Against Cruel Chick Hatching Programs.
Every year in the United States, dozens of chicks get hatched as part of school curriculum. Unfortunately, many organizations have reported that chicks who have served their purpose for the schools end up in dumpsters — including those who are still conscious. Many humane alternatives exist to teach children about the life cycle, including watching online videos, reading books, or visiting an animal sanctuary.
9. Don’t Ever Dump Domestic Birds.
Palomacy, a nonprofit dedicated solely to pigeon rescue, told Lady Freethinker that every year they rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home hundreds of domestic pigeons, including those who were purchased at live markets and mistakenly “mercy” released to the wild, injured pigeons who survived the cruel sport of pigeon racing, or pigeons exploited in the “dove release” business. The Wild Bird Fund, a New York-based wildlife rehabilitation and educational center, also encourages people to never release domestic birds. Domestic birds do not have survival skills or wild instincts, and typically will starve, become injured, or die when released outdoors. In addition to being cruel, releasing domestic birds is a crime in New York City, Wild Bird Fund added. Also, make sure you’re NEVER contributing to bird cruelty that caters to people’s “entertainment” by reading our educational story about birds not serving as “props”!
10. If You’re Buying Coffee, Make Sure It’s Bird Friendly!
Unfortunately many of the “cheap” coffees on sale at grocery and other retail stores are sun grown — typically meaning forest was chopped down to create a growing field. Sun grown coffee, most commonly harvested by large commercial agriculture companies, takes a devastating toll on biodiversity — along with the rural families and co-ops that can’t compete with large-scale operations, according to American Bird Conservatory. To counter these consequences, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has created a Bird Friendly certification program that sources only highest quality, shade-grown coffee to protect bird and wildlife habitat while also ensuring that farmers are paid higher wages. Find a retailer near you by checking out this resource!
Also, make sure you are never buying in to animal cruelty by reading our story about five animal acts involving birds you should always avoid — if you haven’t already!