Birds face many dangers and challenges in the modern world. Many of the things we can control as individuals in our own yards and life, but many of these challenges require a societal response, too.
Loss of habitat
A spring robin
Habitat loss is a huge threat to birds, and one which the rest of this section addresses. It's the most immediate way we as homeowners can help birds, and our habitat garden is also a place to enjoy their companionship.
Coffee and birds
Hummingbirds need winter habitat in shade coffee plantations
It may sound strange, but the kind of coffee we drink has a direct link to our migratory birds' winter habitat. Learn more about this important issue.
Climate change presents a huge challenge to birds. We're doing as much as we can (and we need to do more) in our habitat garden and in the rest of our life to confront climate change, but this is obviously an issue our society must address—now! This affects not only birds, but our children and grandchildren.
Pesticides and other toxic chemicals kill many birds or have other sub-lethal, but serious, effects.
Cats kill many, many millions of birds. So unnecessary!
Loons in the Adirondacks outside our campsite
What does the kind of sinker fishermen use affect birds? When they're made of lead! This is an especially critical issue for one of our most beloved birds of the Adirondacks—the loon. Loons and other waterfowl (including swans, redhead ducks, and others) ingest these sinkers, swallowing them with minnow attached to lost rigs, mistaking them for prey, or mistaking them for the small stones they ingest to help them grind fish bones.
These birds die horrible deaths.
Fortunately, New York State followed the lead of some other states and has banned some of the sale of lead fishing weights. Unfortunately, though other states such as New Hampshire have banned sinkers weighing less than an ounce, NYS has banned only those weighing less than half an ounce. Why?
(And fishermen can also help keep our forest healthy by NOT dumping their extra worms! (Read more about this issue.)
Buildings: our own and others
Feathers left on window
We don't often have a problem with birds hitting the windows, thank goodness, but some people do. (See sidebar.)
For some reason, a goldfinch occasionally hits the window—fortunately, less than once a year. I heard the sickening thud when this one hit, but didn't see where the bird went. I hope it survived, but I've read that even if they're able to fly away, they often die.
A simple way to prevent robin attacks in the spring
Tall buildings, especially those lit up during the night, cell phone towers, and the like kill many more birds than most people realize. This isn't something I can do much about, but some people are working to encourage buildings to turn off the lights at night or take other measures. (See sidebar.)
Our main problem has been male robins attacking our windows, thinking their reflection was a competitor. This happens only some years and only for a week or two in the spring. Neither the windows nor the robins have been injured, but it can be distressing to see and hear. We've found that simply taping some newspapers to the windows solved the problem. (Pretty ugly, but it's only for a week or two…)
And because of changes we've made to the midwest and in forests of the East, cowbirds, though native, also cause problems.