Dark-eyed Junco by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).  Note its pink bill.

Winter’s in full force here in Central Oregon and birds, including the Dark-eyed Junco pictured above, are flocking to our bird feeders.  I often wonder how they survive so many obstacles — like severely cold temperatures, human structures (i.e., buildings, power lines, etc.), domestic cats and other predators, finding food during winter.  The odds seemed stacked against them.

We can help!  Here are four tips from Audubon, whose mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

  1. Provide water sources — A bird bath is a great option to provide water for birds and a fun bird-watching spot for you.  Make sure it’s placed where cats can’t hide and pounce on unsuspecting birds.
  2. Let your yard be a little messy —  Leave snags for nesting places and stack downed tree limbs to create a brush pile — providing cover and protection from predators.  Rake and pile leaves under trees to create habitat for insects, providing food for some birds (and help protect tree roots during freezing weather).
  3. Create diversity  — The more variety of plants, shrubs and trees…the more diversity of birds (and you’ll also help pollinator insects). Forego the perfect manicured lawn and turn part of it into a mini-meadow (seed-eating birds will love it!).  You’ll spend less time maintaining it giving you more time to sit and birdwatch!
  4. Window Alerts! — Make your windows visible to birds to prevent collisions by marking them with window screens or decals.

At our house, Northern Flickers eat suet and birdseed from a platform feeder (photo by KCBirdFan, Wikimedia Commons).

Like most things in life, once you open your eyes and take time to observe,  you’ll see an amazing diversity of birds and might even get hooked on a new hobby.  A good bird book, like National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America, will help you figure out what species you’re seeing.  Once you have an idea of the species (or at least the group…Is it a sparrow?  A warbler?), then you can look at photos on Cornell University’s All About Birds, where you’ll find great information (range, habitat, life history, etc.) and photos.

A few small actions in your yard go a long way towards helping birds survive.  Another step on our ecofriendly journey!

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