Here is an article by Bridget Stutchbury that was recently run in the New York Times. If you’re a little more ambitious, I highly recommend reading Stutchbury’s book Silence of the Songbirds. It’s an easy read, and is well worth it. Many species of North American songbirds are in decline, and it seems that the reason for this decline is a combination of pressures on their southern wintering grounds and their North American breeding grounds. Stutchbury provides a number of very practical ways in which you can help make life a little easier for songbirds, simply by becoming a more conscientious consumer. Here is a quick summary:
1. Buy organic, shade-grown coffee. Mass-produced coffee is typically sun-grown, and these coffee fields do not provide suitable wintering habitat for neotropical migrants (or endemic species). Traditional shade coffee farms allow coffee to be grown under the cover of large trees. Shade coffee plantations can provide critical wintering habitat for neotropical migrants that sun coffee plantations cannot. Apparently, this traditional shade plantations are better for the farmers too, because they allow the farming of a more diverse set of crops.
2. If you’re buying produce from Latin America, buy organic. Many pesticides which are banned in North America are still used regularly in Latin America. These pesticides are devastating for birds, as well as insects (and they’re probably not much good for the farmer’s health either). Switching from regular bananas to organic bananas is really easy, because even though organic bananas are double the price of regular ones, they’re still dirt cheap. Other produce such as pineapples and melons receive lots of pesticides, and should be purchased only when organic is available.
3. Buy Boreal forest friendly paper products. Many of the big brands of toilet paper and paper towel don’t use recycled paper at all in the production of their products (mind-boggling, isn’t it?). When you’re buying paper products, read the packaging, and try to find recycled paper. Make sure that the recycled symbols refer to the paper, as sometimes only the plastic is recycled. Cascades (I’ve seen it at Costco) and PC Green (any of the Loblaws chain of stores) are boreal-friendly brands that are pretty easy to find.
4. Keep your cat inside, or buy a leash and harness for it and only let it out when you’re with it. Even if it isn’t bringing birds back to you, it’s probably killing some.
On a lighter note, here are some interesting pictures of neotropical migrants.
Finally, here are a few interesting shots of Hummingbirds. It seems that Hummingbirds follow some sort of ‘flyway’, and every once in a while I get an email with a few really neat shots taken by someone in the southern states. Here are a few. Note: now is a good time to get your hummingbird feeder out as they are arriving soon.