Birds and humans have the same basic needs to survive: food, water and shelter.
But humans, unlike birds who live simple, straightforward lives, go a bit overboard to fulfill their needs.
Since 2018 is the Year of the Bird, I decided it was time to purge myself of all the unnecessary things I had in my life and live simpler like a bird.
Reducing Our Footprint
The many possessions we have possess us, and if we decide to pick up and migrate for the winter, it wouldn’t be very bird-like.
Plus, by limiting the stuff you buy, many of which we don’t need, reducing our footprint, limits the amount of packaging, garbage, other waste that go into our landfills.
Many of which never make it to the landfills, and instead are unleashed into nature.
I’m talking about plastic, plastic straws, strings, non-biodegradable packaging, glass, and other items carelessly discarded by humans that become lethal to birds or other wildlife when ingested or wrapped around their limbs and wings causing slow painful deaths.
I recently wrote a story ‘Death By Plastic’ you can read here that sheds light on the perils of plastic in nature.
Living Like a Bird
But now I’m taking this one step further. If I want to support birds and make the world a safer place for them to exist, I need to live like a bird.
Make my life simpler. Buy and use less stuff to only discard later. Do my part to limit my impact on the environment.
I went to the Global Footprint Network website to calculate my ecological footprint to see the extent of the damage I inflict on the environment.
The results found that if everyone lived like me, then we need 2.4 earths. Now before you think my score was terrible, the U.S. ranks a 5 collectively, so I’m doing better than the U.S.
I’m not the worst, but I know I can do better.
And I pledge to be more conscious of the things I buy and the waste it creates so it doesn’t contribute to our landfills or even worse, end up in nature where it can cause harm.
Simple Things to Make the World Better for Birds
If living like a bird is something you can’t do right now, here are 12 simple things from Birdlife International you can do right now to make the world a better place for birds.
1. Fill your garden with native plants
When you plant flowers and shrubs that are native to your country, you’re catering for native birds, while avoiding any problems with invasive species.
Not only will birds feed on the plants themselves, but the more kinds of plants you introduce, the more species of insect they will attract – and the more birds you’ll see feasting on this deliciously varied buffet.
Be sure to skip the pesticides because they kill off birds’ natural prey and poison the food chain. Let the birds act as natural pest control.
2. Know what to do with a chick on the ground
It’s hard not to help a small, helpless bird outside of its nest, but you may be doing more harm than good. A bird that’s hopping about is likely to be a fledgling, being fed and watched over by nearby parents until it learns to fly.
If the bird is too young for that, try putting it back in its nest, if you can find it and you can do so without damaging the nest.
The parents won’t abandon the chick if it smells of humans – that’s just a myth.
But if all else fails, take the bird to an expert wildlife rehabilitation center and please don’t try to raise it yourself.
3. Stop your cat from catching birds
We love our companions, but they are instinctive predators, who kill up to 3.7 billion birds a year in the U.S. alone.
Try putting a bell on your cat’s collar, enclosing an area of the garden for your cat to roam (a “catio”), or keeping your cat indoors altogether. These actions could save birds’ lives – and keep your cat safer, too.
4. Install a bird box
Modern buildings may be warmer and drier, but one thing they tend to lack is convenient nesting holes. Nest boxes are the perfect solution and come in all shapes and sizes depending on the species you want to attract.
Nest boxes are simple to construct but remember never to paint the insides. If you do, they may be too slippery for young birds to climb out of when it’s time to fledge, and it may be toxic, also.
And if you paint the outside, keep it a light color to reflect the sun’s heat.
5. Don’t feed birds bread
Baked goods are not suitable for birds. Bread goes moldy quickly, which can make birds ill.
Bread is also the ultimate “junk food,” filling their stomachs without giving them the nutrients they require.
Instead, feed birds seeds, dried oats, and chopped fruit and nuts.
6. Provide water
Ponds attract a great variety of wildlife, which in turn attract a wealth of fascinating bird species. But even a birdbath will work wonders while providing countless photo opportunities for the backyard bird photographer.
Bird baths only need to be a few centimeters deep for the birds to drink and bathe. Be sure to clean it out once a week with a stiff brush, and if cats are lurking, put the bath on a pedestal.
7. Take part in a local bird count
Take part in Cornell Labs and Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count.
These counts give ordinary citizens (citizen scientists) a chance to record their local birds while providing scientists with crucial information.
8. Put up a bird feeder
You don’t need a garden to put up a bird feeder, and you can get bird feeders that stick to windows.
Bird feeders make birds’ lives better, and they’ll make your life far more exciting, too.
Watch in amazement as epic scandals, feuds, and romances worthy of a soap opera play out before your eyes.
And it doesn’t have to cost anything because you can make a bird feeder from an empty plastic bottle and give that hunk of plastic a new purpose.
9. Make your windows bird-safe
Nothing is more heartbreaking than hearing a boom and running to find a dusty, bird-shaped imprint on your window.
Sometimes the bird will survive – but often, it won’t.
Windows appear invisible to birds or reflect an inviting vista of trees.
Some particularly belligerent birds will even fight their own reflection. Disaster can be averted by putting stickers or decorations (or bird feeders!) on your windows.
10. Clean up litter
Birds become tangled in string, plastic bags, and other refuse, which can either kill them outright or make them easy pickings for predators. Some even build litter into the fabric of their nests, which can be deadly to nestlings.
Some birds will also eat small pieces of plastic, mistaking them for food – and feed them to their chicks, sometimes with devastating consequences.
11. Say no to one-use plastics
The island of South Georgia in the Atlantic Ocean is over 800 miles from the nearest land, but plastic is still being found there.
Throughout the Pacific Ocean, albatross chicks are being brought up in nests made of plastic. And a recent BirdLife expedition to the remote Mid-Atlantic Ridge discovered seabirds with stomachs stuffed full of this manmade polymer.
Plastic litter gets washed down drains, or blown off landfill sites – the only solution is to use less of it.
12. Take your child birdwatching
One moment in nature can spark a lifelong passion.
Ask almost any bird lover how they got started, and they’ll be able to single out a special encounter – no matter how small – that really opened their eyes to birds.
In today’s world, children are becoming increasingly separated from nature, and the health and happiness it provides.
Be the one to change this trend. Inspire the young people in your life to become tomorrow’s conservationists, who will carry our love for birds into the next generation.
I’m doing my part. Now it’s up to you to do your part, and together we can make the world a better and safer place for birds and humans to coexist