While most of us were confined to our homes during 2020, many of us were able to spend a little more time reading …. as well as observing the birds and wildlife that continued their activities. Traffic sounds may have lessened, but the air was filled with the sounds of birds returning to our yards, forests, fields and wetlands. Absent for months, more than 360 species of migratory songbirds continued to return from winter retreats in Central and South America to breed here. These migrations seem almost supernatural as billions of birds navigate with pinpoint accuracy between the places they breed and the places they spend the winter. These fantastic journeys occur in light and darkness, rain and drought, cold and warm, and on land and over the seas.
Birds do not have an easy time – we know that over 25% of bird species have declined since 1970. 10% of hummingbirds have disappeared. Habitat loss has had the greatest impact on their populations. Migratory birds find their forest, wetland and grassland breeding grounds destroyed and fragmented by rapid, ill-planned suburban development. Poor forest management and misuse of pesticides have also taken their toll.
We can help. Bird conservation can begin at our homes. Providing food, cover and shelter for birds that visit our yards is a way to help. Start by landscaping with native plants that offer food and homes for birds and by providing clean water. Be informed about and fight for responsible development and to preserve and restore wildlife habitat.
Birds are our best form of natural insect control, eating tons of insects annually. They need insects to feed their young. Birds are also beautiful to watch and they brighten our days.
Penn-Cumberland Garden Club
Feature photo: A Certified Backyard Habitat, as designated by Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania
Body photo: Friendly neighborhood backyard with birdbath, feeders, plenty of cover