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For Immediate Release: 03/22/11

Birds are a Barometer for Environmental Health

Born Free USA Asks People to Help Birds on Earth Day

Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, aims to foster a greater understanding and appreciation for the important role all wildlife play in maintaining ecosystem health and species diversity. Birds, in particular, are a sentinel species whose plight serves as a barometer of eco-health and as an alert system for detecting global environmental ills.

Today, nearly 12 percent of the world's 9,800 bird species may face extinction within the next century, Born Free USA says that humans have the ability to help birds in ways that are immediate and significant, and is asking people to take action this Earth Day to protect them.

According to Adam Roberts, Born Free USA’s executive vice president, “Habitat loss is the single greatest threat to our birds, outweighing building collisions, domestic cat predation, hunting or capturing for the pet trade. There are relatively simple, impactful and immediate ways people can help birds and contribute to wildlife conservation and the health of our planet. Earth Day is an ideal time to take action.

“You can help offset some of these threats by creating habitats in your backyard and community, and get the whole family involved.”

Born Free USA offers these top tips for creating habitats for birds:

  • Provide nesting sites. Planting a variety of native trees and shrubs provides optimal protection and nesting sites for birds.
  • Diversity is key. One of the most important features for birds is structural diversity, with shrubs and herbaceous plants that grow under trees and plants at different heights and groupings.
  • Dead trees have a purpose. Birds love dead trees and limbs. As long as dead trees and limbs do not pose a human safety concern, leave them. They provide habitat for birds such as woodpeckers and bluebirds who utilize tree holes for nests. Dead limbs also provide optimal “lookout” posts for birds.
  • Cats vs. birds. Keep cats indoors, especially during the bird breeding season (generally spring and summer) when young birds are most at risk as they are learning to fly.
  • Stop mowing. Or at least set aside some “no-mow” areas of your yard. Many songbirds nest close to the ground in grass and “weeds.” Leaving tall grass areas will help birds such as goldfinches, quail and towhees. You will also save on mowing time, expense and pollution.
  • Create a water source. Wild birds need a continuous supply of fresh, clean water all year long. Look for a basin that can be cleaned easily and has a gentle slope so birds can wade into the water. The bowl should be no more than 1 to 3 inches deep. Keep birdbaths at least 15 feet from other feeding areas. Place them near shrubs or trees for quick escape from predators. Having perching space nearby helps birds to sit and preen after bathing. Keep water clear of algae, mud or droppings by replacing it every two to three days.
  • Consider the birds and the bees. Help out bees and provide these pollinators with a variety of flowering plants that that have overlapping flowering periods. Planting clumps of native flowers will attract more pollinators. But avoid using insecticides and herbicides, especially when flowers are in bloom. As a matter of fact, if you are successful in attracting a diverse collection of birds to your garden you will no longer need insecticides and herbicides. Different birds specialize in eating different insects, while others set their sights on weed seeds. For example, goldfinches devour thistle seeds, and black phoebes are experts at catching flying insects.

Born Free USA works to protect birds and preserve their rightful place in the wild. As part of this effort, the organization leads the National Bird Day campaign every Jan. 5. Next year will mark the 10th National Bird Day. Learn more at www.nationalbirdday.com.

Born Free USA (BFUSA) is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, BFUSA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and destructive international wildlife trade. BFUSA’s Primate Sanctuary in Texas is home to more than 500 primates rescued from laboratories, roadside zoos and private possession. BFUSA brings to America the message of “compassionate conservation,” the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will, now CEO of both organizations. BFUSA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

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