Bird Friendly Communities
Birds face so many challenges on a daily basis: habitat loss, climate change, predation, building collisions, pesticides, and more. You can help birds by creating a bird-friendly community with these simple guidelines!
- Provide food, water, and shelter
- Landscape with native plants
- Keep your cat indoors
- Reduce the use of pesticides
- Prevent window collisions
- Turn lights off at night
Food, Water, and Shelter
To attract birds, provide the fundamental resources that all animals need: food, water, and shelter.
- Food: Different birds eat different types of food, such as seeds, berries, nectar, foliage/twigs, nuts, fruits, sap, pollen, insects, or amphibians. Many of these food resources can be provided by planting native plants or installing a bird feeder. Check out these Audubon brochures on backyard bird feeding.
- Water: Birds need a clean, reliable and shallow water source for bathing and drinking. If you’re feeling industrious you can even build your own stock water tank feature!
- Shelter: Many native plants provide cover for birds and the materials they need to build nests. You can also install nest boxes for bluebirds, owls, wrens, and other birds and leave dead trees standing if they don’t endanger life or property.
Our native birds are adapted to use native plants for food, nest-building material, and shelter. When native plants are removed, many of our local species can disappear from the area. Reintroducing native plants can help restore native habitat that our local birds need to thrive. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Understory Plants: American Beautyberry, Evergreen Sumac, White Mistflower, Carolina Buckthorn, Lindheimer’s Silktassel, Agarita, Texas Persimmon, Wafer Ash, Rough-leaf Dogwood
- Escape Cover and Places to Raise Young: dense evergreen shrubs such as Mountain Laurel, Yaupon, Possumhaw, Cherry Laurel, Texas Sage (Cenizo), Wax Myrtle, trees, native bunch grasses
- Native Grasses: Leave the seed heads on through the winter
- Native Berries: American Beautyberry, Evergreen Sumac, Fragrant Sumac, Flame-leaf Sumac, Pigeonberry, Coralberry, Native Lantana, Chile Petin
- Nectar–producing Plants: Red Buckeye, Mexican Buckeye, Turk’s Cap, Fall Obedient Plant, Salvias, Flame Acanthus
Check out the resources below for more ideas about which plants are best to create a bird-friendly habitat.
- Bird Habitat Plants for Travis County
- Hummingbird Plants for Central Texas
- Caterpillar Food Plants for Central Texas
Cat Policy (adapted from the American Bird Conservancy)
Travis Audubon Society agrees that domestic cats can make wonderful pets. But when allowed to roam outdoors, these introduced predators have a serious negative impact on the environment.
Cats have been introduced into new habitats across the globe with terrible results. Outdoors, cats are a non-native, invasive species that threaten birds and other wildlife, disrupt ecosystems and spread diseases, including the human pathogens, toxoplasmosis and rabies.
Now numbering well over 100 million in the United States, cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year in the U.S. alone, making cat predation by far the largest human-caused mortality threat to birds. We therefore strongly support a “Cats Indoors Only” policy.
Please check our Travis Audubon website for more information on “catios,” protected patios that allow your pet to enjoy the outdoors without incurring harm to themselves or wildlife.
Reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides
Pesticides are designed to kill insects, weeds, and rodents, but they can also cause serious harm to birds and other wildlife. The chemicals in pesticides are consumed by other animals and persist in the environment. Many pesticides kill birds that eat parts of plants or insects that have been treated. For predators higher in the food chain, bioaccumulation of pesticides can be fatal and has historically led to dramatic population declines in birds such as the Peregrine Falcon and Brown Pelican. These chemicals can also contaminate water resources, harming ecosystems beyond your yard.
- Eliminate or reduce the amount of chemicals used. Many birds are natural pest control agents, eating the insects and rodents we don’t want in our gardens.
- Don’t use neonicotinoids. A single seed coated with this class of insecticides can kill a songbird. They also persist in soil and water, killing many invertebrates that birds and other animals depend on for food. Check this list of products containing neonicotinoids.
- Instead of using rodenticides, try these methods for discouraging rodents and controlling them without harmful chemicals. You can also set up an owl box to help control rodents – a family of barn owls can eat as many as 3000 mice per year!
Up to 1 billion birds die each year from window strikes. During the day, collisions usually happen because the glass reflects the sky and trees. Birds that collide with windows often die from internal bleeding, even if they seem to recover shortly after the collision.
- Move your feeders and birdbaths to within 3 feet from windows. Collisions are more likely to kill birds when they are far enough away to fly at top speed toward the window.
- Block the reflection of the glass by covering the outside of the window with small mesh netting at least 3 inches from the glass. You can also block the reflection of sunlight with awnings or external shutters.
- Break up the reflection. Place vertical tape strips on the outside of the window, no more than 4 inches apart. You can also place decals or sun catchers on the outside of the window. They must be spaced within 2-4 inches of each other so birds cannot fly through the space between them.
- Use one-way transparent film that appears opaque on the outside.
In partnership with Lights Out Texas, Travis Audubon is coordinating Austin’s Building Collision Volunteer Efforts for Spring 2021. To participate in this project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lights Out / Dark Skies
Did you know that most birds migrate at night? They often use the moon, stars, and sun to navigate. Light pollution can interfere with these signals and cause a serious problem for birds: they might be thrown off course or become so disoriented that they circle until they fall to exhaustion or collide with buildings. You can help with just a flick of a switch – plus you’ll save money on energy costs!
- Turn off lights at night on unoccupied floors and in unused spaces.
- Close curtains and blinds.
- Turn off exterior floodlights during bird migration season.
- Opt for shielded lighting that directs lights downward.
- Try using task lighting at your workstation instead of overhead lights if you’re working late.