Yesterday I finished my forth show of my new podcast series, entitled Growing a Greener World. For this episode, I interviewed Dr. Stephen Kress of the Audubon Society. He has some impressive credentials including Vice President of Bird Conservation and Director of the Seabird Restoration Program. He’s also the author of some awesome books on birding.
As an avid backyard birder myself, I found my interview as much self-serving as anything else. My topic was to be Caring for Backyard Birds in Winter. But it was so full of important and useful information; I wanted to share some of those highlights with you right now. Here are some of his comments from our conversation:
- It’s estimated that one billion birds die each year from window strikes. Many of those are from startled birds flying away from feeders placed too close to the house. The danger zone is between 3 and 30 feet. If you’re going to have a feeder near the house, put it within three feet. That way, they won’t have enough momentum built up should they fly into your window. The alternative is to place it beyond 30 feet away.
- It’s a myth that birds are dependent on feeders for food. Feeders do much more for us than any bird. Birds are so mobile, they have plenty of opportunities to find food elsewhere. In fact, only a few of the thousands of bird species actually visit feeding stations. And for those that do, it’s really only a supplement to their natural diet of insects, seed and fruit.
- Caring for backyard birds in winter doesn’t require a constant supply of feeder food either. Even then, it’s only under extreme conditions that supplemental food sources become important.
- Tidy gardeners are not good bird gardeners. All birds need the same basic things for survival: food, shelter, water, nesting sights and perches. Trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers best provide those. And the more complex we can make that habitat (through layers, depth and mixed ground covers) the more birds we’ll attract.
- Many of those tidy gardeners are killing birds by poisoning the insects they feed on. An estimated seven million birds die in our backyards each year because of lawn chemicals. If we like birds, we need to create more habitats for bugs and insects too. Then the birds will keep them in check.
In the end, there was much more to our conversation than simply caring for backyard birds in winter. And the more I replayed it, the more I learned. If you’d like to hear my interview with Dr. Kress, it’s episode 004 and you can listen to it here.