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For the Birds

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Want to teach children about appreciating birds and other wildlife and the importance of keeping wild animals wild? Then rent the movie Rio. It came out last year. I saw it with my son, Jordon, who was 10 at the time.

Blu from the movie Rio.

What I love about the movie, in addition to the animation, is the message about caring for endangered animals, why smugglers are evil, and why we should not encourage sales of exotic birds—or any other animals for that matter.

While the topic of smuggling exotic birds is second in the story line to Blu’s adventures, my son and I had a few discussions about why we need to protect exotics.

National Bird Day
That brings me to National Bird Day, which is January 5, 2012. It’s actually the 10th anniversary of National Bird Day, and one of my favorite nonprofits, Born Free USA, organized a campaign focusing on education and action to discourage pet bird sales, improve standards of care for birds who are already pets, stop international trade of wild birds, and protect and appreciate birds in the wild.

According Monica Engebretson, wildlife biologist and senior program associate for Born FreeUSA, “National Bird Day is about appreciating wild birds flying free outside our own windows and also focusing on birds native to other counties who are captured in the wild or bred in captivity, fueling the captive bird trade. Whether a bird is wild-caught or bred in captivity it is very difficult to meet their needs in a home environment as they are intelligent, highly social, flight-adapted animals.”

Born Free USA recommends that those seeking a companion animal choose truly domesticated animals such as dogs and cats. And for those who already have birds in their care, to look for ways to improve their welfare, such as providing proper toys, varied diet, ample out-of-cage time, and plenty of focused attention. Tips to improve captive bird welfare are included on the National Bird Day website.

National Bird Day 2012 also focuses on protecting our native U.S. birds in crisis. It is estimated that up to one billion birds are killed annually in North America from colliding with windows. Some die on impact while others may fly away to later die from internal injury. Born Free USA’s website offers advice on how to make windows safer for birds, along with other tips and information to help protect and actively celebrate National Bird Day.

Engebretson explains, “When birds see a window they see the reflection of trees or sky and think they can fly through. Putting a few stickers on the glass does not solve the problem—despite popular belief—because birds perceive that they can fly between the stickers.”

Born Free USA offers these tips to prevent window collisions in time for National Bird Day:
•Use taut exterior window “bug” screens and leave them up year-round. Screens break up the reflection and help cushion the blow and reduce injury if a bird hits the window.

•Place vertical exterior tape strips on the glass no more than 10 centimeters apart. Or paint patterns outside of windows with soap or tempera paint.

•Keep drapes and blinds closed whenever possible.

•Position houseplants and flowers away from windows.

•Strategically place bird feeders and baths to reduce collisions. Keep birdbaths and feeders closer than three feet from windows or more than 20 feet away. If birds are very close to the window, they will not build up sufficient speed for an injury if they fly at the window, and if they are much farther away they will be more likely to avoid the window.

•Install frosted or etched windows with less reflective surface area. This can be done with new windows, while craft etching kits are available for existing windows.

•Create movement that can help birds avoid windows. For example, hang ribbons or other material in strips no more than 5 centimeters apart on the outside of windows for the full width of the glass.

•Use external sun shades or awnings to minimize reflection and transparency of windows.

•If putting in new windows, angle the glass downward so it does not reflect the sky and trees.

For much more on birds, and National Bird Day activities, events, contests and information sheets, click here.

19 comments to For the Birds

  • Super Hurrah!!! Yes I did. This is a great post. I will share on The Tiniest Tiger too.

  • Growing up, I was a bird nut. I had bird books, used to go birdwatching, too. I had no idea there was a National Bird Day. Thanks, Michelle.

  • Doretha J

    Born Free USA is one of the best nonprofits. And we do need to keep birds wild–not domesticated for our fancy. It’s simply wrong.

  • Jamie

    We have cats, and would never get a bird. I hate that they would have to live in a cage. It seems cruel.

  • Charlene

    Another great article Michele. Thank you! We need to let birds be birds–that means let them be free.

  • Susie

    Birds are truly a thing of beauty, and living in the city it is often our only contact with nature. They need to be outdoors–not in someone’s home.

  • Lee

    Birds are beautiful when they are flying free–not in a cage. It breaks my heart to see them. And I took my kids to see Rio. It didn’t get great reviews, but we loved it. And the message in the movie is so important. Thank you Michele for mentioning it. I wish everyone would see it. They would learn a lot.

  • Louis

    My neighbor had an exotic bird that he took care of for a number of years. However, it was very hard finding a vet to care for him. And birds really need to be in the wild. Owning an exotic is selfish.

  • Abbey

    Part of me wanted to get a bird because they are so beautiful. Yet, it is wrong. So we live with 4 cats and love them to pieces. Thanks!

  • Charley Harris

    Thanks for this post Michele! We support Born Free USA and live with two dogs and two cats. We agree with the other comments that putting a bird in a cage is so against everything we believe.

  • Kendall

    We had an African Gray, and loved him very much. He lived a long time. When getting a bird you must know where it comes from, and you must be dedicated to spending a lot of time with it. They need lots of attention, which people don’t truly understand. And our next pet will be a dog.

  • Jonas

    I couldn’t imagine owning a bird because putting a bird in a cage just seems wrong.

  • Carol

    I never shop in stores that sell cats or dogs. Now, I’m wondering about parakets and other critters. We have domesticated cats and dogs, and they are the best pets. Birds should be admired from afar.

  • Nathan

    I agree. Exotics should stay in the wild.

  • Halle

    Thanks Michele! Good tips on keeping birds safe. I will share too!

  • Connie

    We have a big picture window in our house and can see so many birds. We have a few lifelike owl statues by the window. I think that has been keeping them away.

  • Fulvia

    Thank you for the great article, Michele! I’ll share it!

  • Thanks Fulvia! I always appreciate it when people share!–Best, Michele

  • Alec

    Great tips for keeping birds safe. I have done some bird rescue & I greatly appreciate this post.