May 12, 2009–Today’s Way: Our songbirds are disappearing.  In big numbers.  In fact, more than 20 of our most common backyard birds have lost half of their populations in just 40 years.  Chickadees, Northern Bobwhites, Bluebirds and Whippoorwills are becoming rather uncommon, losing their crucial nesting habitats to unmitigated development and industrial agriculture, which in turn has brought on use of tons and tons of polluting chemical pesticides and fertilizers.  All the same things which are killing our birds are those which harm the health of people, and like the canary in the coal mine, birds are often early harbingers of environmental dangers to come.

Invasive species have been another factor in the loss of our songbirds; English sparrows and cowbirds, for instance, steal the nests or destroy the eggs of our native birds, and compete for food and habitat.

But there are many simple things we can do to help our bird friends…keeping feeders up year-round helps to provide food for birds who’ve lost important feeding grounds in hedgerows and woodlands.  Putting up some nesting boxes or bird houses designed just for our native birds helps to shelter and protect them during the rearing of their offspring.  Planting native shrubs, trees and bushes that produce berries and nuts creates natural food to forage through the winter.  Switching to natural methods of fertilization such as amending with compost and eliminating pest insects by using beneficial nematodes in your lawn reduce the poisonous chemicals birds are exposed to in their food and water.  Doing any of these things will reward you with a great deal of pleasure in hearing these native birds singing their gratitude out to the coming dawn every morning, and making your bleary winter more colorful while visiting your feeders and fruit bearing shrubs.

You can learn more about birds in your area and how to help them by visiting the Audobon Society’s website.