Most of the time, birdwatching is a joy. We get to watch colorful or powerful creatures with the magical/mystical capability to fly. That captures our heart and imagination and transports us (well, me anyway) away from our human lives for a moment, hour, or longer (well, me anyway). But sometimes, the cold hard world steps in and puts a damper on that magic. Sometimes, birds die and we have to witness the death or the aftermath. Don't worry, I will not show you my photos of dead birds. Rather, I wanted to report that sometimes, we can do things to help birds not die and we can help scientists learn more about birds if they do die.
First, let's discuss helping birds not die. One of the major causes of bird death that homeowners can prevent is window strikes. Birds see the reflection of the yard in the window and think that they can fly to it. Instead, they fly into the window and end up dead. Sometimes they die right away and we find them under the window and sometimes they fly off seemingly unaffected. The bad news is that most of those birds will probably die too from internal bleeding :-( How can we help prevent this? We can put things on the windows so that birds understand that it is not OK to fly there. There are stickers available at most bird seed stores which have mixed reviews. Here is a link:
Window Alert Stickers
There are industrial strength coverings like this one which are pretty much outside window shades that you can see through from inside:
This method seems like a winner to me. It uses mesh, like the kind you use to protect fruit trees stretched across the outside of the windows to act as a "trampoline".
Love Hollow - 100% Bird Proof Windows
Here are a few links that have really good information and include ways to help on a larger scale:
David Sibley's Blog
Birdwatchers Digest Blog
Next on the list is House Finch conjunctivitis. This is an eye disease similar to our "pink eye" that weakens the birds and they eventually die. To make matters worse, this disease is just as contagious as pink eye and ends up infecting all of the other finches at your feeder. This problem is harder to deal with for a number of reasons. The first thing that you need to do is take down all of your feeders so that the infected bird(s) are not in close contact with others. Wash the feeders with bleach and don't hang them up again for a loooong time. The infected birds will eventually die and hopefully not infect many other birds. This is tough to do, but it is best for the common good. Second, if you can capture an infected bird, you can save that bird by taking it to a wildlife rehab center. Conjunctivitis in birds is just as treatable as our pink eye but it takes special care from trained professionals to cure the disease. Ask that the bird be returned to you so that you can return it to its flock in our yard when it is cured. (Also, give them a donation).
Finally, what can we do if we find a dead bird? Simple. Put it in a sealed plastic bag like a Ziploc and put it in your freezer and call your local Audubon. They will usually take the dead birds and get them to scientists that can use them to learn more about birds. Or, you can contact me. I can take them to the Academy of Natural Sciences which is where the DVOC meetings take place. In fact, I dropped off a frozen Ovenbird at last night's meeting that Barbara found on Penn's campus.
That's all for now. I hope that you take action to make your windows more bird proof. There is nothing worse than hearing that sickening "thump". I promise a happier topic tomorrow. I will be going to John Heinz NWR with the DVOC field trip and will hopefully have something fun to share.