|COWBIRDS AND FEEDERS|
Did you know? Human actions can contribute to the presence of Brown-headed Cowbirds. PRBO biologists in the Eastern Sierra have been conducting cowbird counts in suburban areas near riparian creeks. In 2002, in a housing development, they found on average 6 cowbirds per weekly census with numbers ranging from 1 to 60 cowbirds per visit! Even more disturbing, the cowbirds were mostly observed foraging at bird feeders.
What you can do: If you feed birds, be careful not to attract and feed jays and cowbirds. * Never scatter seed indiscriminately on the ground. * Avoid tray feeders that provide open access to seed. * Choose feeders that exclude cowbirds, jays, and mammalian predators, e.g., hanging feeders with cages around them and trays underneath to keep the seed from spilling loose onto the ground.
If you watch birds and other wildlife, please take the time to read this code carefully. It can, and should, be downloaded from the ABA website at www.americanbirding.org/abaethics.htm. If you do not have Internet access, contact me at 415-868-1221, ext. 307 for a printout.
Here, I would like to expand upon a few points that are made in the birding ethics code:
"Promote the welfare of birds and their environments." Under this heading is a section addressing endangered and threatened species, species of special concern, and those rare to an area. It is crucial to respect the welfare of these species and to remember that habituation to people may perpetuate the threatened or endangered status of the species. This means that it is irresponsible to participate in any of the following activities:
* Calling or hooting to attract Spotted Owls or other threatened bird species
|Spotted Owl: a call for ethical birding. Photo courtesy Point Reyes National Seashore|
* Staking out the nest or location of an endangered species for birding trips or viewing by other birders
* Violating posted land or area closures or restrictions on recreational activities by wildlife managers or agencies
This part of the ethics code also refers to nesting birds, which are especially sensitive to disturbance. While birding, be sure you are not compromising a nesting bird through photography or intense viewing, as this may cause the bird to abandon its nest.
"Ensure that feeders, nest structures and other artificial bird environments are safe." Because we love birds, we are often drawn to the idea of putting up bird feeders and nest boxes either to help the birds or to attract them to our yards for further enjoyment. We must realize, though, that our actions, if not done correctly, may actually have a negative affect on the birds we are trying to help. For example, the Brown-headed Cowbird, well known as a nest parasite with negative impacts on open-cup nesting songbirds, can be favored by certain kinds of bird feeding. (See sidebar and also Rich Stallcup's "Focus" in this issue).
By observing a code of ethics for watching birds and wildlife, we can make a difference--ensuring that our activities cause the creatures we love no harm.