In 2018, we mark the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. In honor of this milestone, we’re joining forces with people from around the globe to celebrate the “Year of the Bird,” and recommit to protecting birds now and into the future.
Despite some great success stories such as the recovery of the Common Loon in Vermont, the rate of bird extinctions appears to be increasing worldwide. Habitat destruction, invasive species, collisions with structures, domestic and feral cats, and pesticides are just a few of the threats birds are facing. As of 2017, over 1,300 bird species are under threat, and 197 are Critically Endangered on the brink of extinction.
Year of the Bird is 12 months of storytelling, science, and conservation aimed at highlighting the importance of birds and their protection, and we hope you’ll join us.
Here’s just a few things you can do everyday to help birds.
- Take the pledge. VCE and the 80+ Year of the Bird partners are asking everyone to take the Year of the Bird Pledge to do one thing to help birds each month. Sign the pledge and we’ll send you a new idea each month.
- Drink great coffee. Coffee isn’t just an elixir of early morning life, it’s vital habitat for migratory songbirds—including many of the same birds you’ll be looking at this spring and summer. By choosing shade-grown coffee, or better yet Bird-Friendly certified coffee (which combines organic and Fair Trade credentials with high-quality shade habitat), you can make a direct contribution to maintaining bird habitat in the tropics. Here’s a story from Cornell Lab of Ornithology about the importance of shade-grown coffee to people and birds in Colombia; plus a handy guide to understanding coffee labels. Here at VCE, we really like Birds & Beans Coffee and they give back to bird conservation too!
- Join a citizen science project. From Mountain Birdwatch on a high peak to Loonwatch on a picturesque lake, we have projects for all levels and interest for you to join at VCE. Help our scientists collect important data to understand how bird populations are faring.
- Keep a daily list—and share it. When you’re out walking, try keeping a list. Vermont eBird provides a handy way to keep all your sightings in one place. You can even upload photos and sound recordings to remind you of what you found. The newly updated eBird app lets you keep a list while you’re out, and will even track your walking route to let you know how much ground you covered. And the data you enter will help our scientists and others around the globe understand bird populations in cool ways like this.
- Pay it forward. As the weather gets nicer and the birds more colorful, invite a friend to go birding with you. Lead a bird watching trip. Join a local or national bird group, such as VCE, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, or your local Audubon chapter, even join them with a friend you invite on a bird walk.
Here in Vermont, we’ll be adding local and regional Year of the Bird events too.
- January: we’ll help you get started and get the most out of Vermont eBird with a FaceBook Live “call-in” session with Kent McFarland and other VCE staff that have been using eBird for over 15 years. And we’ll have an eBird workshop later this month at VCE headquarters for those of you that would like help in person. Stay tuned for dates and times on the VCE FaceBook site.
- February: we’ll be participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count across Vermont and we hope you’ll join us too. Last year birders found 94 species in Vermont and we hope to hit 100 this year to celebrate 100 years of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and get a midwinter snapshot of bird life in Vermont and beyond. Post your bird sightings to Vermont eBird on February 16-19 and you’ll be part of the Great Backyard Bird Count!
- March and April: we’ll be talking about what you can do in your yard this spring for the birds. We’ll be highlighting plants and management that you can easily do to help birds and other wildlife on your property.
- May: this is the month of the annual VCE birdathon and the eBird Global Big Day. Last year bird watchings tallied a remarkable 171 species in Vermont in just one day. Join us in counting birds for science and fundraising for projects.
From Loonwatch in July to learning about bird collisions with buildings and what we can do in September, there’s a lot you can do. Stay tuned for more from us throughout the Year of the Bird!