Stop Them from Dying

By Christy Esmahan, Ph.D.

Last Thursday was a tough day. I got news that my brother-in-law, my cousin’s daughter and my son-in-law, all living in different cities, had Covid-19. And then when I went to check the mail, I found a dead little Barn Swallow in front of my neighbor’s house. I came home and cried.

“Focus on what you can control,” my husband gently reminded me.

As it turns out, thankfully, all three of my extended family members are doing fine. The little swallow, however, recently fledged and with its tail feathers not yet long enough to be deeply forked, will never make it to its family’s wintering home in South America.

Every year in the U.S. outdoor cats murder billions of birds, breeding and wintering habitats are destroyed by humans, and another billion birds are killed when they fly into windows. These are problems we can and should focus on.

Travis Audubon’s Advocacy Committee is working with the City of Austin to encourage the adoption of a bird-friendly building resolution, and soon we will be asking our Council members to sign it. We encourage you to help us get the word out to them. Likewise, many cities throughout the US and Canada are also implementing bird-safe building legislation.

In addition, there’s fantastic news from Congress: on July 1st, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 919, the Bird-Safe Buildings Act. This Act, which requires that all federal buildings incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features, has been circulating in Congress for years and, thankfully, largely has bipartisan support. Now it is attached to H.R. 2, The Moving Forward Act, as an amendment.

Designing buildings to be bird-friendly is not expensive. Neither is retrofitting them with films that make glass visible to birds. Saving a billion birds from needless death each year is within our grasp. That’s why when the Bird-Safe Buildings Act is introduced to the Senate soon, regardless of your political affiliations, I hope you’ll join me in reaching out to our senators and urging them to support this Act. Watch for the weekly Travis Audubon e-bulletins and we’ll let you know when to do so.

Meanwhile, now’s a great time to take action in your own home. The American Birding Conservancy has a slew of easy ways in which to make our windows visible to birds. I love the non-sticky decals from Artscape for my glass doors and windows, but there are lots of ideas from which to choose.

Also, encourage friends and family to make their windows visible to birds, keep their cats indoors and plant native plants to feed and shelter our birds.

Oh, and one more thing: wear your mask! Let’s all stay safe so we can continue birding for many years to come!