For the Birds: Wanted - 99-year Leases for Rest Stops

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trees provide food and shelter to raise young Western Wood-Peewee
Photo by Elaine Chuang

By Christine Southwick

You are driving from your “snowbird” condo, to your summer abode. Your gas tank is almost empty. The station you always use is out of gas. You have enough to get to the next station, but when you get there, the land has changed, and development fills that space. Now what?

If you were a bird with this scenario, you would probably fall to the ground, too exhausted and too hungry to travel on.

Black-necked Stilts stopping at the Potholes in Eastern WA
Photo by Elaine Chuang

If you were lucky, you might find enough water, food, and shelter to recover and travel to your breeding or wintering grounds. If not, you, and possibly your whole flock, would die, never to fly again.

This is frequently happening throughout the US. Many migrating birds are finding familiar rest stops and watering holes on their bi-yearly flyways being poisoned by pesticides and fertilizers, drained and plowed for crops, or made into half-filled strip malls.

Habitat loss is the number one cause of bird deaths.

There are fewer and fewer places for birds to rest, feed, raise their young, and find good water.

Distances between resting and refueling stops are often becoming so great that many birds traveling thousand-year-old migration routes will die from exhaustion, not being able to reach the next safe stop-over.

Snags, used first by woodpeckers, provide places for nesting, resting, storing food
Photo by Elaine Chuang

How can you help?

Have a sick tree, or one you fear in your yard?

Make a snag out of the bottom fifteen-twenty feet. Snags are safe, and dead trees shelter local birds from winter storms, offer nesting sites, and provide food. Besides, snags make excellent backdrops to watch the birds that use them.

Trees are the lungs of the earth, so plant a tree or fruiting bush to replace any you take away. (Note: 71% of Shoreline’s tree canopy is in private yards)

Weeds, including dandelions are eaten by many birds Am. Goldfinches
Phoro by Terry Dunning

Don’t make your gardens so clean that they become sterile for wildlife.

Gardens that don’t have bugs, can’t feed birds, salamanders, frogs, or any other wildlife. Make a small brush pile for birds to hide, escape, and find shelter from winter cold. Leaves and weeds are loved by many birds.

If you clear a wild area, don’t do it between March and August. Wait until Labor Day, by then the young have left their ground nests.

If you must cover a ditch, offer water and shelter to replace that which you have eliminated.

When you change the landscape to suit your tastes, ask yourself who and what you are depriving of water, food, and the shelter needed to raise their young.


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