Enhance Backyard Birdwatching When You Feed & Protect Birds

Ripple Effects: Enhance Backyard Birdwatching When You Feed & Protect Birds: Downy Woodpecker Male at Bird Feeder Courtesy US FWS, Leah Schrodt, Photographer
[Downy Woodpecker Male at] Bird Feeder
Courtesy US FWS, Leah Schrodt, Photographer

Applying Anti-Strike Film to Window Courtesy US FWS Brett Billings Photographer Applying Anti-Strike Film to Window
Courtesy US FWS
Brett Billings Photographer

Birdwatching is a fun hobby for all ages and it is a great way to connect with nature and increase self-efficacy, so let’s discuss the benefits and the importance of a safe environment for feeding our backyard birds. First, the benefits of supplemental feeding, and second, preventable deaths from cats and window collisions.

Supplemental food and water are important ways we can reduce stress for backyard birds, especially through the winter months. Sites with bird feeders attract more birds over time than those without feeders, and the birds are in overall greater health than birds at sites without feeders. A higher percentage of chicks hatch at sites with bird feeders, and the survival rates are significantly higher, but supplemental feeding must be done in a safe environment.

Free ranging domestic cats and window collisions are leading causes of bird deaths in North America. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year in the United States alone. Approximately one billion birds are dying from window collisions each year in North America – that represents about ten percent of our birds dying from crashing into windows (1), and combined, that’s over three billion fewer insect eaters, fewer pollinators, fewer seed spreaders, and fewer parents for the next generation.

Cats should be kept indoors, and windows should be treated, especially if they reflect trees and shrubs. If you have seen a ghostly bird imprint or heard the sickening thump of a bird hitting your windows, then those are windows in need of treatments such as screens, translucent UV tape, or even tempera paint designs, because even birds that manage to fly away have potentially life-threatening internal injuries. Feeders less than 3 feet away don’t allow birds to build up too much speed before they collide, so it’s good to put feeders and birdbaths 3 feet or closer to a window or greater than 30 feet away.

Feeders placed on or near windows have the added benefit of being easy to access and monitor. In addition to a window suet feeder, one of my favorite window feeders is actually a clear plastic suction-cup toothbrush cup holder from the dollar store – it’s easy to clean and there’s no need for binoculars!

In addition to enhancing a backyard bird watching hobby and improving bird health and survival, the ripple effects of feeding birds, keeping cats indoors, and preventing window collisions include pest control in our gardens where birds feast on slugs, snails, aphids and grasshoppers. I for one particularly appreciate Black-billed Magpies when they remove wasp nests from my house! The Bridgerland Audubon website has tools, coloring pages, checklists, and science-based information on window collision prevention. Solutions can be as simple as the careful placement of bird feeders and keeping cats indoors. Find us at bridgerlandaudubon.org, that’s Bridgerland Audubon – A-U-D-U-B-O-N dot org.

I’m Hilary Shughart, and I’m wild about Bridgerland Audubon, wild about Utah Public Radio, and Wild About Utah!Supplemental food and water are important ways we can reduce stress for backyard birds
Credits:
Images: Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service, Leah Schrodt and Brett Billings, Photographers
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional ReadingSupplemental food and water are important ways we can reduce stress for backyard birds
WildAboutUtah pieces by Hilary Shughart, https://wildaboututah.org/author/hilary-shughart/

Procure Bird Seed from local Audubon Chapters:
Great Salt Lake Audubon
Last year: https://greatsaltlakeaudubon.org/events/full-calendar/sunflower-seed-pickup-at-wild-birds-unlimited
Bridgerland Audubon
Other Statewide Birding Groups

Hellstern, Ron, Build a Certified Wildlife Habitat at Home, Wild About Utah, July 17, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/build-community-wildlife-habitats/

Hellstern, Ron, Attracting Birds and Butterflies to Your Yard, Wild About Utah, May 28, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/attracting-birds-and-butterflies-to-your-yard/

Beorchia, Mykel, How To Create a Bird Friendly Yard, Wild About Utah, November 9, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/how-to-create-a-bird-friendly-yard/

Shughart, Hilary, To Grow Your Own Bird Food, Native Plants Are Key!, Wild About Utah, April 12, 2021, https://wildaboututah.org/native-plants-are-key/

Kervin, Linda, Bird Feeding, https://wildaboututah.org/bird-feeding/

Kervin, Linda, Cane, Jim, Feed the Birds, Wild About Utah, December 1, 2011, https://wildaboututah.org/feed-the-birds/

Creating Landscapes for Wildlife… A Guide for Backyards in Utah, Written by Sue Nordstrom and Illustrated by Kathlyn Collins Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Utah State University with Margy Halpin, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Second Printing 2001,
Updated for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, by Frank Howe, DWR Avian coordinator; Ben Franklin, DWR–Utah Natural Heritage Program botanist; Randy Brudnicki, DWR publications editor; and landscape planning illustrations by Stephanie Duer.,
Published by:
State of Utah Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources,
Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service and
Utah State University Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning;
1991 updated 2001 https://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/landscapingforwildlife.pdf

Sizemore, Grant, Cats Indoors–Cats and Birds, American Bird Conservancy, https://abcbirds.org/program/cats-indoors/cats-and-birds/

Bird-Strike Prevention: How to Stop Birds From Hitting Windows, American Bird Conservancy, https://abcbirds.org/glass-collisions/stop-birds-hitting-windows/

Messmer, Terry, Cowell, Samuel, Dietrich, Dietrich, and Sullivan, Kimberly, Ask an Expert: Seven Tips to Keep Birds from Hitting Your Windows, Utah State University Extension, March 28, 2017, https://extension.usu.edu/news_sections/agriculture_and_natural_resources/bird-windows

Cowell, Samuel, Dietrich, Dietrich, Sullivan, Kimberly and Messmer, Terry, Reducing the Risk of Birds Colliding into Windows:
A Practical Guide for Homes and Businesses [NR/Wildlife/2017-01pr], Utah State University Extension, March 2017, https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2682&context=extension_curall

Klem, Jr., Daniel, Solid Air: Invisible Killer: Saving Billions of Birds from Windows, Hancock House Publishers, October 5, 2021, https://www.amazon.com/Solid-Air-Invisible-Killer-Billions/dp/0888396465

For the Birds (Download Brochure PDF), US Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, rev March 2001, https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/api/collection/document/id/1107/download

Morse, Susan, To Feed or Not to Feed Wild Birds–Bird Feeders Can Be Sources of Joy — and Disease,, US Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.fws.gov/story/feed-or-not-feed-wild-birds

Make Your Home a Safe, Healthy Home for Birds,, US Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Sep 13, 2021, https://www.fws.gov/story/2021-09/backyard-birds

Celley, Courtney, Helping wildlife while avoiding common pitfalls,, US Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.fws.gov/story/helping-wildlife-while-avoiding-common-pitfalls

West Nile virus bird identification, , Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, October 20, 2017, https://wildlife.utah.gov/bird-identification.html

Dragon, Sydney, (Student Conservation Association intern), Conservation in Urban Areas: Backyard Bird Feeding, US Fish & Wildlife Service Bird Walks (Texas), U.S. Department of the Interior, Apr 27, 2021, https://youtu.be/2bkliew6aj8

Everyone Can Be a Part of the February Global Bird Count!

Everyone Can Be a Part of the February Global Bird Count! Courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology on behalf of Great Backyard Bird Count, GBBC.org
Courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology on behalf of Great Backyard Bird Count, GBBC.org

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart, Photographer Gray-crowned Rosy Finch
Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart, Photographer

There are deeply concerning drops in bird populations, and shifting migration ranges and patterns are changing before our eyes, but on the bright side, the crisis presents a strong reason and opportunities for even the most novice birders to be a part of the solution, to contribute to environmental conservation through community science. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Birds Canada urge us to walk into nature and count birds for the mid-February Global Bird Count known as the Great Backyard Bird Count. February is the month to help scientists better understand global bird populations before one of their annual migrations, and the data collected will help bend the curve for bird survival.

“Spend time in your favorite places watching birds–then tell us about them! In as little as 15 minutes notice the birds around you. Identify them, count them, and submit them to help scientists better understand and protect birds around the world. If you already use eBird or Merlin, your submissions over the 4 days count towards GBBC.”

Everything you need to know will be shared in a free online webinar, so “Get ready to flock together for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)! Panelists will explain how to participate in this exciting global event and how participation might extend past your back door. Discover how to join a group taking part in the GBBC and explore fun ways to involve kids. From bird ID tips to counting birds with ease, this webinar is your ticket to an engaging and confident GBBC experience.”

We’ve posted links for local parks and trails with eBird printable checklists, and it’s encouraging to see the number and variety of species accessible right in town, and in our nearby National Forests and Wilderness Areas. Will you see American Robins, Black-billed Magpies, and Northern Flickers? Can you tell the difference between the American and the Lesser Goldfinch, or the Mountain and Black-capped Chickadee? Will you get lucky and spot a Gray-crowned Rosy finch feasting on black oil sunflower seeds in your own backyard?

There’s no time like the present to establish new traditions for connecting with nature and being part of the solution to the climate challenge. There are ample online resources for new and experienced birders, and in addition to the four local Utah Audubon Chapters, the Birding in Utah Facebook group provides a birding community with expert help with learning how to identify birds even in blurry photos. Team up to be a part of the constellation of community scientists documenting history, and weaving a safety net to ensure that birds have the places they need to thrive today and tomorrow.

I’m Hilary Shughart with the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am wild about the National Audubon initiative to promote community science for Bird-Friendly communities, and I am Wild About Utah!

Credits:
Images: Courtesy Great Backyard Bird Count, Cornell Lab of Ornithology et. al.
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch: Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Other Wild About Utah pieces authored by Hilary Shughart

Global Bird Count in February, Great Backyard Bird Count, https://www.birdcount.org/

About the Great Backyard Bird Count, Every February, count for as little as 15 minutes in your own backyard to help expand our understanding of birds. National Audubon, https://www.audubon.org/conservation/about-great-backyard-bird-count

Global Bird Count in February; Great Backyard Bird Count, Birds Canada, https://www.birdscanada.org/bird-science/great-backyard-bird-count

eBird Field Checklist Sue’s Pond–Logan River Wetlands and Shorebird Playa (178 species), Cache, Utah, https://ebird.org/printableList?regionCode=L586105&yr=all&m=

Who Likes What: The Favorite Birdseed of Feeder Regulars and Rarities, Here are the top three seed choices for a variety of species, per a scientific observational study of 1.2 million bird feeder visits. National Audubon, https://www.audubon.org/news/who-likes-what-favorite-birdseed-feeder-regulars-and-rarities

Birding: The Basics & Beyond (1 hr 12 mn video), Natural Habitat Adventures & WWF(World Wildlife Fund), https://www.nathab.com/traveler-resources/webinars/your-daily-dose-of-nature/birding-the-basics-beyond/

Bridgerland Audubon Great Backyard Bird Count Page, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/birding-tools/birding-events/great-backyard-bird-count/

Howe, Frank, Rosy Finches, Local Bird Spotlight, The Stilt, Bridgerland Audubon Society, December 2009, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/documents/BAS-Stilts/Stilt-2009/Vol%2038%20Image%2010.pdf

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray-crowned_Rosy-Finch/overview#

“Get ready to flock together for the 2024 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)! Panelists will explain how to participate in this exciting global event and how participation might extend past your back door.”
Beyond the Backyard: All About the Great Backyard Bird Count Webinar, Tuesday, February 13, 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern, https://dl.allaboutbirds.org/2024gbbcwebinar

’Tis the Season for Counting Birds, and We Hope You Will Give it a Try!

Cardinal in Snow Courtesy Pixabay
Cardinal in Snow
Courtesy Pixabay
(A Very Rare Bird in Logan. However reported to eBird in 2010, Ivins, UT.)

Cache Valley (Logan) Utah Circle, 124th Annual Christmas Bird Count, Visit BridgerlandAudubon.org Cache Valley (Logan) Utah Circle
December 16, 2023
124th Annual Christmas Bird Count
67th Local Bird Count
Visit BridgerlandAudubon.org

Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb 16-19, 2024, Courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology & Bird Canada, Sponsors, GBBC Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb 16-19, 2024
Courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology & Bird Canada, Sponsors, GBBC. For more information visit BridgerlandAudubon.org

Count Winter Feeder Birds for Science, Project FeederWatch, Short-eared Owl, Courtesy Project FeederWatch, Walt Cochran, Photographer Count Winter Feeder Birds for Science
Project FeederWatch
Short-eared Owl, Courtesy Project FeederWatch, Walt Cochran, Photographer
For more information visit BridgerlandAudubon.org

The National Audubon Society invites novice and expert bird watchers to participate in the Annual Christmas Bird Count. This is an opportunity to contribute to a long-standing tradition of inviting everyone to play a role in Conservation by observing and counting birds.

The Christmas Bird Count is an annual 24 hour bird survey which takes place in pre-designated 15-mile diameter Watch Circles between December 14 and January 5. Participation is free, but pre-registration is required.

Dedicated bird lovers face the elements for a full day of trekking and observing along familiar routes, in organized teams, following mapping protocols and a daylong commitment, but anyone who lives inside a Watch Circle can stay cozy inside observing birds through the windows.

It’s important to remember that time spent watching is counted – the total effort is counted even if there are zero birds observed. And, if you think you spotted a rare bird, be sure to take photos for confirmation. Birds will linger longer where they can perch and shelter in trees and shrubs, and especially if they find treats such as Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, White Proso Millet, suet, and of course, fresh clean water!

Whether or not you live in or near a Christmas Bird Count Watch Circle, be sure to mark your calendar for the mid-February Great Backyard Bird Count, which is an easy event for everyone everywhere, and only requires participants to count birds in their own backyard for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish).

In fact, when it comes to counting birds, every day can indeed be like Christmas, with the option to use the eBird smartphone app developed by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, allowing birdwatchers to log their data directly into a growing searchable database.

Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count is a prime example of how everyday observations from first-time volunteers and experts alike can make a big difference in understanding changing patterns in our world. One advantage of the staggered schedules is that you are welcome to participate in as many circles as you wish.

Find out more about watch circle events near you, including early morning Owling, and After School and pre-count Scouting Bird Walks. For more information visit BridgerlandAudubon.org, that’s Bridgerland A-U-D-U-B-O-N dot org.

I’m Hilary Shughart with the Bridgerland Audubon Society and I am Wild About Utah, and Wild About the roughly 100 species documented in our Annual Christmas Bird Count in Cache Valley since 1955!

Credits:
Images: Red Cardinal, Courtesy Pixabay
    Cache Valley (Logan), Count Circle, Courtesy Bryan Dixon, 2015
    Great Backyard Bird Count Courtesy BirdCount.org, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon, and Birds Canada
    FeederWatch Courtesy BirdCount.org, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver and Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

WildAboutUtah pieces by Hilary Shughart, https://wildaboututah.org/author/hilary-shughart/

Utah Birds list of Regional Christmas Bird Counts

Worldwide Christmas Bird Count Map, Zoom in to locate the closest to you, National Audubon, https://gis.audubon.org/christmasbirdcount/

Bridgerland Audubon CBC Toolkit https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/cache-valley-christmas-bird-count/

National Audubon Data: Annual Summaries of the Christmas Bird Count, 1901-Present https://www.audubon.org/content/american-birds-annual-summary-christmas-bird-count

Tips from eBird on How to count large flocks of birds:
“Big numbers of Moving Birds. Their are two ways to count large flocks of moving birds: either by blocking off a group of individuals, counting them, and then extrapolating to the whole of the flock; or by counting birds per unit of time.”
Team eBird, Bird Counting 101, eBird is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://ebird.org/news/counting-101/

General Tips for Bird Identification:
Mayntz, Melissa, Bird Bill Parts, The Spruce, Updated on 08/01/22, https://www.thespruce.com/bird-bill-parts-387362

Project FeederWatch: November-April
Project FeederWatch Background on BridgerlandAudubon.org: https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/birding-tools/birding-events/project-feederwatch/
FeederWatch.org, the official site: https://www.feederwatch.org/

The Great Backyard BirdCount, February 16-19, 2024
GBBC Background on BridgerlandAudubon.org: https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/birding-tools/birding-events/great-backyard-bird-count/
BirdCount.org, the official site: https://www.birdcount.org/

eBird Resources
eBird Background & Reports on BridgerlandAudubon.org: https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/birding-tools/ebird/
eBird Resources: https://ebird.org/about/resources
eBird.org site: https://ebird.org/

Shorebirds

Shorebirds: Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri), Shorebirds at Utah Lake, June 2, 2023, Courtesy & Copyright Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri
Shorebirds at Utah Lake, June 2, 2023
Courtesy & Copyright Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah
Shorebirds in August? I’d been told there was a robust migration during that time, but hadn’t tested the validity of such until a week ago. Three other young ladies joined me to do a count at the Salt Creek Wildlife Management Area near Tremonton Utah. And boy did I need their younger eyes and energy as we were inundated with shorebirds- avocets, stilts, curlews, greater and lesser yellowlegs, dowitchers, marbled godwit, western sandpipers, killdeer, and a flock of small peepes (short for small sandpipers).

Myriad other magnificent migrants joined the mixed flock- numerous duck species, juvenile black crown night herons by the dozens, herons, egrets, ibis, terns, etc., but they don’t qualify as shorebirds, so we enjoyed their presence, but they didn’t make the list.

A few other non-migrants were noteworthy- a burrowing owl that posed beautifully on a fence post emitting constant chatters, and a very fat, mature western rattler with many buttons on its tail./ The Salt Creek WMA is a jewel that gets few visitors given its “out there” location competing with the 80 thousand acre Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge next door, which boasts an outstanding visitor center, offering many resources and educational programs.

This was the first official fall shorebird survey conducted in 30 years at roughly 200 sites across 11 western states. These surveys fill a critical three-decade data gap in our understanding of migratory shorebird populations and their distribution. The results will inform management and policy efforts to ensure there are resources to support birds and the places they need during their migratory journeys.

The survey was organized by the Sageland [Collaborative] organization, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and several others, conducted by volunteers and biologists via airplane, vehicles, ATVs, boats and on our feet. This survey will occur for the next three years, during the same week each spring and fall, to coincide with the peak shorebird migration across the region.

We’re part of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem, whose wetlands support nearly one-third of the global population of Wilson's phalaropes, more than half of American avocets, 37 percent of black-necked stilts, and 21 percent of the North American population of snowy plovers.

Shorebirds are a diverse group of birds including sandpipers, plovers, avocets, oystercatchers, and phalaropes. There are approximately 217 recognized species globally, 81 of which occur in the Americas for all or part of their lifecycle with 52 species breeding in North America, many of whom visit Utah.

Shorebird are the endurance marathoner winners, some migrating 20,000 miles a year. Their remarkable hemispheric travels coincide with peak abundant food. In their global pursuit of food and breeding grounds, home is nowhere, yet everywhere. As a result, shorebirds are difficult to track, monitor, and protect. /Shorebirds are among a few groups of birds showing the most dramatic declines. Their decline began in the 1800s, in part due to market hunting. As humans have continued to alter the landscape, shorebird populations have further decreased, with declines increasing rapidly in recent decades.

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m Wild About Utah’s wild Shorebirds!

Credits:
Image: Courtesy & Copyright Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Used by permission, https://www.wildlife.utah.gov/news_photos/2023-06-02-shorebirds-at-utah-lake.jpg
Audio: Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly, https://logannature.org/
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Van Tatenhove, Aimee, The Quiet Importance of Brine Flies, Wild About Utah, Nov 15, 2021, https://wildaboututah.org/the-quiet-importance-of-brine-flies/

The Sageland Collaborative, https://sagelandcollaborative.org/

Migratory Shorebird Survey, The Sageland Collaborative, https://sagelandcollaborative.org/shorebirds?rq=shorebird

Statewide shorebird surveys restarted after 30-year hiatus; over 84,000 shorebirds counted during spring survey, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, June 2, 2023, https://wildlife.utah.gov/news/utah-wildlife-news/1679-statewide-shorebird-surveys-restarted-after-30-year-hiatus.html

Salt Creek Wildlife Management Area:
Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area, Utah Outdoor Activities, https://utahoutdooractivities.com/saltcreek.html
Salt Creek WMA, UtahBirds, Utah County Birders, https://www.utahbirds.org/counties/boxelder/BirdingSites.htm#SaltCreekWMA
1999-2001 Great Salt Lake Waterbird Survey: (Salt Creek is #33 under Survey Areas) https://wildlife.utah.gov/waterbirdsurvey/
Salt Creek Habitat, GeoData Archive, Utah Geological Survey, Utah Division of Natural Resources, State of Utah, https://geodata.geology.utah.gov/pages/view.php?ref=7975&search=%21collection104&offset=0&order_by=date&sort=DESC&archive=0