The sight of Canadian Geese flying through the air is a sign that the seasons are changing. While geese are perhaps the loudest, they’re not the only ones on the migratory path—around 75 percent of Canadian birds fly the coop for winter, seeking out warmer climates and plentiful food supplies.
But for migrating birds, travelling hundreds of kilometres isn’t all smooth flying. Unfavourable weather conditions, inadequate food supplies, manmade structures, pollution, and disease can all make an already perilous journey more dangerous. Climate change also plays a role, with loss of habitat being the number concern for migratory species, particularly those that commute as far away as South America.
It’s estimated that since 1970, Canada’s breeding bird populations have declined by as much as 12 percent, in part because of migration.
If you want to help our feathered friends find their way south, here are a few things that you can do around the house, yard or cottage:
Make your yard a bird rest stop
You know how you’re more likely to stop at a gas station on the way to the cottage when you know it has a really great restaurant and restroom? Make your backyard that gas station. Choosing native plants and including natural water sources will make your yard a safe haven for migratory birds. Opt for plants that bloom in both the spring and fall, and avoid pesticide use. Birds can hear water, so install a source of moving water, such as a fountain or bubbling birdbath.
Offer the best “road trip” snacks
Stock your feeder with foods that are high in fat and sugar, such as black oil sunflower seeds and suet. These will provide birds with the energy they need to complete their next leg.
Keep bird baths and feeders clean
During migration, birds gather in larger than usual flocks, which can allow illness to spread quickly. Help prevent sick birds from infecting others by keeping your birdbath and feeder clean.
Install window decals
According to Environment Canada, 25 million birds are killed each year striking houses or buildings. Although birds generally have good vision, they have difficulty telling the difference between the real sky and the reflection of the sky in a window. Add decals, nets, or films to windows minimize collisions. Make sure that your bird feeders are an ample distance from your home. Since birds are attracted to bright light, close your curtains at night.
Keep your cat on lockdown
Domestic and feral cats are the number one cause of bird deaths in Canada, killing around 200 million birds each year. Even if you think your pet is just a harmless house cat, it could be on the prowl, killing as many as 12 birds a night.
Watch for birds on the road
Road deaths, combined with cats and collisions with structures, are responsible for 95 percent of bird deaths in Canada. Take one of these sources of danger out of the equation by watching carefully for birds on the highway, particularly when passing wetland areas or driving at dusk or dawn.
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