May is for Migration

Bird photos are available for download at the bottom of this page.

In much of the U.S., May is peak migration month. Billions of birds of every kind – songbirds, raptors and shorebirds – fly from their winter homes in the south to their summer breeding grounds in places as far north as the Arctic. Along the way they encounter many perils including bright lights and tall buildings, cats and yard care chemicals.

Fortunately, people can help ensure a safer journey for migrating birds. Backyards and parks, often key stopover points for many species, can become bird-friendly rest stops with a few simple steps. Try these tips from Audubon to help birds on their journey:

  • Reduce or eliminate pesticide and herbicide use. Using fewer chemicals in your yard and home helps keep wildlife, pets and people healthy.  Learn more at athome.audubon.org/eliminate-or-reduce-pesticide-use.
  • Plant native plants. Natives provide birds with food in the form of fruit and seeds, and are also home to tasty invertebrates like bugs and spiders.  Learn more at athome.audubon.org/plant-native-species.
  • Keep cats inside. Keeping cats indoors ensures that birds outdoors stay safe and cats benefit too; indoor cats live much longer than cats that go outside.  Learn more at  audubon.org/bird/at_home/SafeCats.html.
  • Prevent window collisions. Make sure birds can see (and avoid) your windows by putting up screens, closing drapes and blinds when you leave the house, or sticking multiple decals on the glass (decals need to be spaced closely together to be effective – no more than two to four inches apart).  Learn more at audubon.org/bird/at_home/SafeWindows.html.
  • Provide cover in your backyard. Leave snags for nesting places and stack downed tree limbs to create a brush pile, which is a great source of cover for birds during bad weather.  Learn more at audubon.org/bird/at_home/HealthyYard_BirdHabitat.html.
  • Help birds stay on course. Close your blinds at night and turn off lights you aren’t using. Some birds use constellations to guide them on their annual migrations, and bright lights can disrupt them. Learn more at audubon.org/bird/at_home/SafeImpact.html.
  • Create or protect water sources in your yard. Birds need water to drink and bathe in, just like we do. Be sure to change the water two to three times per week when mosquitoes are breeding. Learn more at audubon.org/bird/at_home./HealthyYard_BirdHabitat.html.
  • Landscape for birds. Use lots of layers, including understory, ground cover, shrubs, and trees. Multiple levels of plants let birds use different layers for different purposes, such as nesting, feeding, and singing. Learn more at audubon.org/bird/at_home/HealthyYard_GardenBasics.html.
  • Extend a bird safety net beyond your backyard. Contact your local Audubon Chapter to learn about opportunities to create healthy habitat in parks, beaches and other places in your community. Find your Audubon Chapter at  audubon.org/search-by-zip.
  • Take the Audubon At Home Healthy Yard Pledge! When you take the Pledge, you commit to conserving water, planting native species, removing invasive plants, reducing pesticide use, protecting water quality, and keeping birds safe in your yard. Take the pledge at audubonathome.org/pledge.

This information is provided by the National Audubon Society.  Learn more at audubon.org.

View full press release at www.audubon.org/newsroom/press-releases/2011/may-migration-5-billion-birds-wing-their-way-north.

Photos may be used with attribution:

  • Top: Wood Thrush, Atlantic Flyway (Credit: Steve Maslowski, USFWS)
  • Center: Western Tanager, Pacific Flyway (Credit: Gary Kramer, USFWS)
  • Bottom: Dickcissel, Mississippi Flyway (Credit: Patty McNeal, Creative Commons Licensing)
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