How to Support Migratory Birds in Central Oregon

Bird populations in North America have declined by the billions since 1970. Photo courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology

How to Support Migratory Birds in Central Oregon

The migration of birds, sometimes spanning thousands of miles, is a testament to the wonders of nature. However, studies show that avian species are in critical decline, with as many as 3 billion birds lost since 1970 (Rosenberg, et al, 2019). As the migration season unfolds, it becomes our duty to ensure the safety and well-being of our wildlife. There are many small steps you can take to make your home and property safer for birds, during migration and all year round!

Here are some things to consider to make your home more bird-safe:

Responsible Bird Feeding 

Evening Grosbeaks enjoy seeds from a bird feeder.

Bird feeders can provide nourishment during migration. Responsible feeding is the key. Choose a mix of seeds and grains, steering clear of bread, which lacks essential nutrients and can lead to health issues. Research the dietary preferences of local birds, and provide a variety of seeds, fruits, and insects to keep them healthy and thriving.

Bird diseases can be devastating, often spreading through unclean feeders. To protect bird health, make cleaning a routine. A mixture of bleach and water can help maintain cleanliness. We also advise rotating feeding areas to prevent waste accumulation, which can be a breeding ground for disease. 

American Robins utilize bird baths and water sources throughout the winter in Central Oregon.

Fresh, clean water is also important for birds. Installing a bird bath with a shallow design ensures safety for the birds. If you reside in a cold climate, consider adding a small heater to prevent freezing during winter months, ensuring that water is always accessible. Don’t forget to replace water daily and keep your water source clean to avoid spreading disease.

You might also consider planting native plants! One of the most sustainable ways to support local bird populations is by planting native flowering plants, shrubs, and trees. These plants yield berries and seeds that serve as natural food sources throughout the year, reducing the need for artificial feeding.

Bird-Friendly Windows 

Window collisions are a significant threat to avian populations. Birds colliding with windows is a common and preventable problem, and often results in injuries or fatalities. To help prevent collisions, it’s helpful to break up reflections that birds mistake for real environments.

Think Wild uses grid tape, an inexpensive way to make windows visible to birds.

There are several simple, effective ways to make your windows safer for birds: 

  • Chalk Markers or Tape: You can apply tape or draw patterns directly onto windows, spaced no more than 4 inches apart. This creates a visible barrier that birds can recognize and avoid. 
  • Decals and Window Film: Densely apply decals, no more than 4 inches apart, or use window film to break up reflective surfaces, signaling to birds that these are obstacles. We like WindowAlert decals, which have a UV coating that is highly visible to birds! We carry them for sale in our wildlife hospital, or you can buy them on our website.
  • Bird Safe Screens or Netting: Install bird-safe screens, netting, or curtains over windows to provide a physical barrier that prevents birds from flying into the glass.
  • Naturescaping: Landscape with native plants to provide natural food sources for birds, which can entice them away from windows. Consider creating a habitat that helps redirect their flight paths.

    Stickers and decals can also break up window reflections.
  • Move Bird Feeders: Position bird feeders at least 30 feet away from windows. This distance can reduce the likelihood of birds colliding with windows while approaching or departing from feeding stations.
  • Move Indoor Plants: Place indoor plants away from windows – birds may mistake indoor plants for outdoor foliage, so positioning them away from windows minimizes the risk.
  • Turn Off Unnecessary Lights at Night: Reducing light pollution during the nighttime hours not only saves energy but also prevents birds from being attracted to illuminated windows. Migratory birds are often disoriented by artificial lights during their night flights.
  • Switch to Motion-Detecting Lights: Implement motion-sensing lights as a more bird-friendly lighting option. These lights remain off until motion is detected, minimizing their impact on bird behavior.

Avoid Pesticides and Poisons

The use of pesticides, herbicides, rodenticides, and other poisons can directly and indirectly affect bird health. These chemicals not only pose a direct threat to birds that may ingest them but also disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystems that these avian travelers rely on. When these toxins enter the food chain, they can have far-reaching consequences, impacting the availability of safe and nutritious food sources for birds. To support migratory birds, it’s important to utilize sustainable and bird-friendly practices, such as organic gardening and responsible pest control methods that minimize the use of harmful chemicals, safeguarding not only the birds but the entire ecosystem they depend on. Click to view a visual of a food web impacted by rodenticides.

Visibility collars can help birds spot potential predators.

Responsible Pet Ownership

Domestic pets can be potential threats to migratory birds, and responsible pet ownership is important for the safety of wildlife.

Cats: Keep cats indoors, especially during migration season. This can significantly reduce bird predation. Cat enclosures or “catios” provide outdoor access without endangering wildlife. Bird-safe collars can also be a good option to prevent predation. If a cat does catch a bird, please contact Think Wild or your closest wildlife rehabber immediately. Cat interactions can be quickly fatal to birds. 

Dogs: When walking dogs near bird habitats, keep them on a leash to prevent disturbances. Train dogs to avoid chasing or disturbing wildlife, and ensure they are not unleashed near nesting areas. 

Protecting birds during their migrations is a shared responsibility. By following these guidelines, we can all contribute to the conservation of our local wildlife.