by Sustainable Stillwater MN
Minnesota Audubon Society officially awarded Stillwater a “Minnesota Bird City” title on June 15. Soon we will see signage and visitors will know that Stillwater appreciates and cares for our birds by working to protect and enhance natural habitat. What can the rest of us do?
Keep cats indoors: Cats are wonderful pets but they are devastating to our native birds. Cats kill over a billion birds a year. It is healthier for cats to be indoors as well.
Plant trees. Trees provide food and shelter for our birds. 95% of our native birds eat insects and native trees play host to the bugs they eat. Trees provide material and space for nests, and protection from intense weather and predators. A list of native trees and shrubs for homeowners can be found at https://tinyurl.com/MNNativeTrees
Stop birds from hitting your windows. Yikes! Over 200 million birds die each year from collisions with windows! Window decals that birds will see are available at pet and wild bird seed stores. Birds don’t hit all windows; the ones they do should be targeted with decals or tape.
Buy bird-friendly coffee. Most of our song birds migrate from Central America. Buy certified shade-grown coffee that is “Rainforest Alliance Certified” or “Bird Friendly,” standards that require farmers to maintain or restore tree canopy cover and to not use pesticides, which decrease the birds’ food supply.
Turn down your lights: Most birds migrate at night and can be drawn off course by lighted structures during peak migration August 15 to October 31 and from March 15 to May 31. The Lights Out program is mainly directed to taller buildings but homeowners can help by turning off exterior decorative lighting and minimizing security lighting, and turning off interior lighting, especially on upper floors when not being used.
Avoid pesticides: Neonicotinoids (Roundup) are pesticides that kill not just the pests - but also the insects that our native birds depend on to feed their young. Be sure to look when you buy plants and stay away from plants treated with neonicotinoids.
Go native with your landscaping: Use native plants. Consider replacing some lawn turf with “bee lawn” plantings. Created a “layered” landscape – canopy tree, understory tree, shrub, and grass layers provide food and shelter for birds. Let dead trees stand as they provide protection and lots of insects for food. Brush piles may look messy but they are great hiding places for birds. Instead of clearing the garden in the fall, wait until mid-May as plant debris provides food and nesting materials for beneficial insects and birds.