Since 1970, the North American bird population has declined by 30%. Bobolinks and Canada jays—among others— are rapidly disappearing from Wisconsin’s spring soundscape. But this trend is reversible, with a little help from the public.
Recently, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation and the Natural Resources Foundation partnered to start the campaign Save Our Songbirds (SOS) to combat the decrease of many bird populations.
The campaign asks Wisconsinites to do three things: fix problem windows, buy coffee grown in bird-friendly locations, and grow native plants that are good for birds.
Glass windows are often invisible to birds, and windows with large, uninterrupted panes of glass can be especially problematic. As many as one billion birds die in the U.S. each year after colliding with panes of glass. Fortunately, fixing problem windows is easy and inexpensive. One recommended technique is to apply markings to the outside of windows. Experts recommend using dark colored dots or lines, spaced about two inches apart.
According to Save Our Songbirds, most coffee is grown in a way that destroys bird habitats, but coffee lovers can help by looking for brands certified by The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.
Habitat loss is a large contributor to the loss of bird populations. But the public can help by planting native plants in their yards.
Lisa Gaumnitz, coordinator of SOS Save Our Songbirds, says native plants are key. “Many of the ornamental plants around our homes come from Asia, Europe and South America and provide little or no insect food for Wisconsin birds, especially when compared to our native plants,” she says. “They’re good eye-candy but also a food desert (for birds) so it’s important to add some plants that expand the menu.”
The songbirds have already seen support with an increase of native plant sales and nurseries across the state. Non-profits, nature centers, and conservation groups are hosting various plant sales.
“There has been a significant increase in the number of native plant nurseries in the state, which is great news,” says Amy Staffen, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist who advises on native landscaping and ecological restoration.
One participating non-profit is “Wild Ones,” which is based in Wisconsin and has 13 chapters in the state, all dedicated to preserving and protecting native landscapes. The native plants will attract, feed, and provide essential habitats, which is crucial for saving our songbirds.
[Sources: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Save our Songbirds.org]