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Eco-Birding: Enjoy Birds Sustainably

March 27, 2023

Birdwatching is a popular hobby that connects people with nature and fosters an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of the avian world. However, like any outdoor activity, it's essential to minimize our environmental impact while enjoying birds. In this extensive educational blog, we will explore various eco-friendly birding practices, including responsible travel, habitat conservation, and sustainable bird feeding. By adopting these practices, bird enthusiasts can contribute to the protection of birds and their habitats while reducing their environmental footprint.

1. Green Travel for Birdwatching

(a) Plan Your Trips Wisely

When planning birdwatching trips, consider visiting local birding hotspots or exploring nearby parks and natural areas to minimize your travel-related emissions. By exploring birdwatching opportunities close to home, you can reduce your carbon footprint while still enjoying the beauty and diversity of birds. Use resources like eBird to find birding hotspots near your location.

(b) Choose Sustainable Transportation Options

When traveling for birdwatching, consider using eco-friendly transportation methods such as public transport, carpooling, cycling, or walking whenever possible. If driving is necessary, use fuel-efficient vehicles or consider renting a hybrid or electric car. When flying to birdwatching destinations, consider purchasing carbon offsets to counteract the emissions produced by air travel. TerraPass and are two organizations that offer carbon offset programs.

(c) Support Eco-Friendly Accommodations and Tour Operators

When booking accommodations for birdwatching trips, choose eco-friendly lodgings that follow sustainable practices, such as water and energy conservation, waste reduction, and habitat protection. Similarly, opt for birdwatching tour operators that adhere to responsible birding ethics and prioritize environmental conservation. Organizations like Green Globe and EarthCheck certify sustainable accommodations and tour operators, making it easier for birdwatchers to make eco-friendly choices.

Photo by Liron Malyanker:

2. Habitat Conservation and Restoration

(a) Support Local Conservation Efforts

Birdwatchers can contribute to habitat conservation by supporting local conservation organizations and participating in citizen science projects, such as eBird, Project FeederWatch, and NestWatch. By reporting bird sightings and contributing data on bird populations, bird enthusiasts can help monitor bird populations and inform conservation efforts.

(b) Volunteer for Habitat Restoration Projects

Participating in habitat restoration projects, such as tree planting, invasive species removal, or wetland restoration, can help improve the quality of bird habitats and support healthy bird populations. Many local conservation organizations and nature centers offer volunteer opportunities for habitat restoration projects, providing birdwatchers with a hands-on way to contribute to the protection of bird habitats.

(c) Advocate for Bird-Friendly Legislation and Policies

Birdwatchers can also promote habitat conservation by advocating for bird-friendly legislation and policies at the local, national, and international levels. Support initiatives that protect critical bird habitats, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the United States, and stay informed about proposed legislation that could impact bird populations and their habitats.

3. Sustainable Bird Feeding

(a) Choose Eco-Friendly Bird Feeders

When selecting bird feeders for your backyard, opt for eco-friendly models made from recycled materials or sustainable wood sources, such as FSC-certified wood. Avoid using plastic feeders, as they may degrade over time and release microplastics into the environment. Some eco-friendly bird feeder options include Duncraft and Woodlink.

(b) Provide High-Quality Bird Food

Offer high-quality bird food that is free from additives and preservatives to ensure the health of your backyard birds. Avoid purchasing seed mixes with a high proportion of filler seeds, such as milo and wheat, which provide little nutritional value to birds. Instead, choose nutrient-rich seeds like black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, or safflower seeds. For further guidance, refer to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's bird feeding tips.

(c) Clean and Maintain Bird Feeders

Regularly clean and maintain your bird feeders to prevent the spread of disease among birds. Disinfect feeders with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water, and rinse thoroughly before refilling. Ensure that bird feeders are properly secured and situated away from predators like cats.

Photo by Ertabbt:

4. Bird-Friendly Landscaping

(a) Plant Native Species

Incorporate native plants into your garden or backyard to provide natural food sources and habitat for birds. Native plants attract a variety of insects, which serve as an essential food source for many bird species. To find suitable native plants for your region, consult resources like the National Wildlife Federation's Native Plant Finder.

(b) Create a Multi-Layered Habitat

Design your bird-friendly landscape with a variety of plant layers, including ground cover, understory, and canopy plants. This creates a diverse and complex habitat that supports a wide range of bird species. Additionally, provide nesting sites and materials for birds, such as nest boxes, brush piles, or snags.

(c) Avoid Pesticides

Refrain from using chemical pesticides in your garden or backyard, as they can harm birds and other wildlife. Instead, employ organic and eco-friendly pest control methods, such as introducing beneficial insects, using natural repellents, or implementing companion planting techniques.

5. Promote Bird Safety

(a) Prevent Window Collisions

Birds often collide with windows due to reflections that mimic their natural habitat. To prevent window collisions, install bird-safe window treatments, such as BirdSavers, Feather Friendly, or WindowAlert. These products make windows more visible to birds, reducing the risk of collisions.

(b) Keep Cats Indoors

Domestic cats pose a significant threat to birds, as they kill billions of birds each year. By keeping cats indoors or using a catio or CatBib, you can protect birds from predation and ensure a safer environment for your feathered friends.

(c) Support Bird-Friendly Policies

Advocate for bird-friendly building standards and policies that minimize the impact of human activities on bird populations. Support initiatives such as Bird-Safe Buildings Act in the United States, which aims to reduce bird deaths caused by building collisions.

Photo by Chris F:

6. Educate Others About Eco-Friendly Birding

(a) Share Your Knowledge

Share your eco-friendly birding practices with friends, family, and local birdwatching clubs. By educating others about the importance of sustainable birding, you can help promote environmentally conscious behavior among fellow bird enthusiasts and contribute to the protection of bird populations.

(b) Organize Educational Events

Host workshops, webinars, or presentations on eco-friendly birding topics, such as habitat conservation, sustainable bird feeding, or bird-friendly landscaping. By organizing educational events, you can raise awareness about the importance of environmentally responsible birdwatching practices within your community.

(c) Collaborate with Local Conservation Organizations and Nature Centers

Partner with local conservation organizations and nature centers to promote eco-friendly birding initiatives and events. These collaborations can help spread the message of sustainable birdwatching to a broader audience and contribute to the overall protection of birds and their habitats.

7. Stay Informed and Continue Learning

(a) Read Books and Articles on Eco-Friendly Birding

Stay informed about the latest research and best practices in eco-friendly birding by reading books, articles, and online resources. Some recommended books on this topic include "Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas W. Tallamy, "Bird-Friendly Yard: A Practical Guide to Creating a Bird-Friendly Landscape" by Julie Zickefoose, and "The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden" by Rick Darke and Douglas W. Tallamy.

(b) Attend Conferences and Workshops

Participate in birdwatching conferences and workshops that focus on eco-friendly birding practices, such as the American Birding Expo or BirdLife International World Congress. Attending these events can help you stay up-to-date on the latest research, techniques, and technologies related to eco-friendly birdwatching.

(c) Join Online Communities and Forums

Connect with other bird enthusiasts who share your passion for eco-friendly birding by joining online communities and forums. Engage in discussions, share tips, and exchange ideas with fellow birdwatchers who are also committed to minimizing their environmental impact. Some popular online birding forums include BirdForum and WhatBird.

By following these eco-friendly birding practices and promoting responsible birdwatching within your community, you can help protect birds and their habitats while enjoying the beauty and diversity of the avian world.