how to help migrating birds

The Blackburnian Warbler is a small songbird with a flame-orange head. The striking bird largely nests in the far Northeastern United States, around the Great Lakes, and into Canada, but when it’s time to head south, this neotropical migrant, which weighs less than an ounce, wings it all the way to the Andes Mountain in South America. Blackburnians have been making this trek for thousands of years, but over the past century, the odyssey has become increasingly treacherous. Now tall towers of glass and steel protrude into the sky; houses, roads, and concrete cover the once virgin landscape; and at night, the world can look like a neverending Lite Brite. All of these changes, in one way or another, pose deadly dangers to the Blackburnian and millions of other migrating songbirds every year, putting an abrupt end to their heroic journeys.

It doesnt have to be this way. Though we might not be able to reverse human development, we can be proactive about preventing bird deaths that results from our man-made obstacles. Below are three ways you can personally make a difference. Birds are incredibly adaptive and resilient, but even a little effort on our part can help them go a long way—perhaps even to the Andes.

Turn Off Lights at Night

Bright lights can confuse migrating birds, causing them to veer into buildings or stray from the correct migration route. Did you know that most birds migrate at night? This poses a serious risk to migratory birds, but not many people are aware of it. Help spread the word and learn more here.

how to help migrating birds

Clear glass blends in with the surroundings, invisible to a bird migrating across it. Installing streamers or labelling the window itself with paint, stickers, or other marking material can serve as a warning to birds about windows and help avoid crashes. Even drawing the blinds closed can aid in dispersing the glass surface. Look for stunned birds during migration in the spaces beneath large, unmarked windows. Additionally, check the glass for collision-related feathers or smudges.

how to help migrating birds

Shrubs, bushes, and trees make great perches for resting. Hummingbirds get their energy from flowers, and they also draw insects, which give weary and hungry birds their energy. Compared to non-native plants, native plants are better suited to the local climate, need less water, and contribute to less erosion. For additional resources, look for native plants in your area or visit Audubon Rockies’ Habitat Hero program.

how to help migrating birds

Even though life can get hectic at times, birds are also busy! This spring, a few seemingly insignificant actions, like turning on a light switch or drawing the blinds, can have a big impact on migrating birds.

Save migratory birds by turning off outdoor lights.

How to locate, recognize, and assist birds that are migrating through Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado

Plant a better world for birds and people.

News and stories about birds and conservation in the Rockies.

Attend an event in person or virtually to help or learn about birds.

Meet the people behind our work.

Make Your Windows Obvious

One billion to one hundred million birds are thought to perish annually as a result of collisions with clear or reflective glass. Windows can confuse birds in a couple of ways. Occasionally, the glass reflects the surrounding trees and scenery, leading the bird to believe that it is simply another aspect of nature. There may occasionally be an illusion of an open area beyond the window. In either case, the outcome is frequently the same: a fatal blow Preventing these strikes, however, is fairly easy.

To begin with, installing window decals can significantly lower bird strikes. Additionally, use multiple decals close enough together to truly deter birds, as they are accustomed to darting through small spaces (contrary to popular belief, a single decal in the middle of a window won’t do the trick). The spaces between each decal should not be greater than 2 by 4″ inches, or the width of a sparrow’s flight path.

If colored decals aren’t your thing, try dot-patterned films, clear tape strips, or UV stickers, which are less noticeable to humans but very visible to birds (make sure to adhere to the same spacing guidelines when applying them). Alternatively, you could use some creativity to make your own bird decorations, hang streamers, or use beads to deter strikes. And here’s something to cheer yourself up, slackers: dirty windows also lessen impacts Give yourself a break the next time you start to feel behind on your chores. Youll also be giving one to the birds.

Go Lights Out

Preventing bird strikes can also be as simple as turning off the lights in your home or apartment at dusk until dawn. The Blackburnian is one of many night-migrating birds that uses the stars and moon as navigational aids. However, birds can easily become confused now that artificial light is twinkling on the landscape below them. Research indicates that light pollution may cause as many as one million birds to perish annually. Occasionally, the birds will fly into a building or window because they are drawn to the lights or become confused by them. Other times, they may become “trapped” by the light of a city or strong beams, wearing them out as they keep circling.

Probably the most well-known example of this risk is the 9/11 Memorials Tribute in Lights, which has dozens of strong bulbs aimed skyward. Each year, thousands of migrating birds are drawn in by the beams’ glow. Birds lose vital energy while stuck flying around the beam, which they need to fuel their lengthy flights. However, as a result of New York City Audubon’s tireless efforts, the city and the chapter now collaborate to track the number of birds that become trapped. To allow the birds to escape and continue on their journey, they turn off the lights for 20 to 30 minutes when the number reaches an unmanageable level.

This is but one illustration of the impact that Audubon’s Lights Out program is having. We can save birds and many other animals that are confused by lights by reducing light pollution. Artificial lighting, for instance, can confuse turtles that are coming ashore to nest. Apart from simply turning off the lights inside your home, homeowners should also make sure that any exterior lighting is shielded or turned off, and they should use timers in case they forget or are away. By taking these easy steps, you can support a national movement to save migrating birds and lower your energy usage.


How can humans help birds migrate?

Turn Off the Lights As migratory birds travel through cities with large buildings and bright lights, they can become disoriented by the lights, causing them to collide. You can help birds during critical migration periods by turning off all non-essential lights from 11 p.m. to sunrise.

What stimulates migration in birds?

Birds migrate to move from areas of low or decreasing resources to areas of high or increasing resources. The two primary resources being sought are food and nesting locations. Here’s more about how migration evolved.

What is the problem with migrating birds?

One cause of the decline in populations is climate change caused by global warming. As temperatures rise, birds are thrown from their migration cycle; when birds reach their destinations they rely on certain foods to live through the season.