The birds are back! After spending the winter down south, migratory birds have started popping up in backyards, parks and forests across Canada and the United States. They’re making themselves seen and heard just in time for International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), which is celebrated by most people in the U.S. and Canada on the second Saturday of May.
Our migratory birds – some of them traveling thousands of kilometers from their wintering grounds – are real survivors. Between 30% and 60% of these birds fall victim to prey and challenging weather conditions. How can you help the ones that do make it back?
We have twelve tips to help these troupers now and for the rest of the time they’re with us. You can share these tips with your friends and family by downloading and printing colourful bookmarks with a selection of tips in both English and French.
12 Ways to Help Birds
- Prevent Window Collisions Birds will fly into windows because they see nature reflected in the glass. Make your home or cottage windows visible to birds by applying UV reflective window decals, or strips or blocks of tape, or hanging exterior netting in front of particularly deadly windows. In the spring and fall, turn off exterior lights and draw curtains at night to prevent migratory birds from colliding with windows. For more information on how you can help, visit Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) and the American Bird Conservancy.
- Protect Birds from Pets Keeping your cat in a controlled space will prevent it from killing birds. Unleashed dogs in natural habitat can harm birds too, disturbing, chasing, and even killing them. Migrating birds and young birds just out of the nest are especially vulnerable.
- Create a Healthy Yard for Birds Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your yard as they are harmful to birds and the food they eat. Provide birds with food, nest sites and cover by planting native plants. Leave leaves under trees and shrubs – they make excellent foraging sites. Provide and maintain a source of clean water and keep feeders clean and disease-free by changing seed regularly. Check out these tips on how to make your yard bird-friendly, plus detailed information on what types of plants are native to Southern Ontario.
- Leave Fledglings Where You Find Them Fledglings may spend several days on the ground after they leave the nest and before they can fly. Help them by keeping people and pets away, so their parents can care for them.
- Learn and Respect Canada’s Bird Laws The federal Migratory Bird Convention Act, and provincial wildlife laws protect birds, their nests and eggs from harm, capture and possession in Canada. It is also illegal to purchase, keep or trade threatened species of wildlife from other countries without permit. Learn more about Canada’s bird laws.
- Make Your City Bird-Friendly City Parks, ravines, and open spaces are natural places for migrant and resident birds. Work with your community to restore the habitat that once existed in your area and reduce risks to birds. Get City Council to recognize International Migratory Bird Day and declare your city “Bird Friendly.” This year the city of Vancouver will recognize a similar significant day for birds – World Migratory Bird Day – with a series of events.
- Slow Down When Driving Cars kill millions of birds each year. Driving within speed limits gives you more time to respond to animals on the road and sounding your horn warns animals that you are coming and gives them time to get out of the way. Explore this issue in-depth.
- Buy Bird-Friendly Products Support bird conservation by purchasing shade-grown organic coffee and chocolate from Latin America. Shade coffee farms mimic native forests and support more bird species than sun coffee farms.
- Help Get Kids Into Nature Help kids connect with nature by taking them for a walk in a park or sponsoring their membership to a young naturalist club. Help schools make school yards more interesting and more natural by supporting their efforts with donations of time and plants. Young naturalist clubs exist across Canada. Get in touch with your local club:
Be a Citizen Scientist Many projects need helpers to gather data on birds and their habitat. You can contribute just by watching your bird feeder. Visit an Important Bird Area and enter your observations on eBird. Contact your local naturalist group, Nature Canada or Bird Studies Canada, to volunteer for a project that suits you.
Reduce Energy Use Riding your bike or walking reduces your carbon footprint and prevents pollution of bird habitats. Switching off the lights in your house saves energy and also helps prevent birds from colliding with your windows.
Support Groups that Protect Birds Support groups that work to protect birds by volunteering your time or making a donation. Why not participate in the Baillie Birdathon or le Grand Défi (in Quebec) and join birders in a bird count that supports bird conservation? Help keep common birds common and endangered birds protected!