10 Commandments of Bird Watching

Yale’s latest avian title offers advice about the best ways in which we can share our gardens and neighbourhoods with our feathered friends. Here, we take a closer look at what author John Marzluff thinks are the top 10 tips for twitchers, fashioning a kind of birdwatcher’s bible alongside delightful illustrations by Jack DeLap.

1. Do not covet your neighbour’s lawn. 

Marzluff states that the ‘ubiquity of the lawn has outstripped its benefits’. The attraction of having a beautifully kept garden could potentially be limiting the wildlife surrounding suburban homes, making our suburbs less inviting for bird life in general.

2. Keep your cat indoors!

Marzluff sees great benefit in ensuring that domestic cats remain inside the home – with the dual advantage of both protecting your cat from bugs and parasites, and making sure the surrounding wildlife is not harmed. A win-win situation!

3. Make your windows more visible to birds that fly near them.

The illustrations in Welcome to Subirdia leave the reader under no illusion as to what can happen if your windows aren’t visible to a swooping American robin (or any other small bird for that matter).

4. Do not light the night sky.

Birds can be attracted to bright lights, and with increasing artificial light pollution happening in cities, this can become a problem in terms of migration patterns for birds. With lights glowing ‘eight to nine times brighter than natural landscapes’ birds can become confused and disorientated, with the result that they may crash into things.

5. Provide food and nest boxes.

The British Trust for Ornithology recommends feeding birds all year-round. Birds have a better chance of survival in the colder months, and it improves breeding success during the spring.

6. Do not kill native predators.

In order to foster a healthy and developing ecosystem, the control of pests and predators needs to be done carefully. One example Marzluff gives is the treatment of rats. Instead of using harmful chemicals to be rid of the pesky creatures, we should be focusing on less harmful practices. This is because pesticides may not only harm the rat or other vermin, but also surrounding birds and wildlife. 0050_001-page-001

7. Foster a diversity of habitats and natural variability within landscapes.

‘Variety is the spice of life’ – a popular saying that could also apply to the variety birds need to flourish in their natural habitats. Animals need different things from different ecosystems in order to survive.

8. Create safe passage across roads and highways.

Coordinated regional planning needs consider and include our diverse wildlife, argues Mazluff. In order for wildlife to survive, we need to take care not to disturb the natural habitat of birds in our pursuit of convenience.

0051_001-page-001 9. Ensure that there are functional connections between land and water.

Mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians all depend on functioning connections between different types of habitat. For a whole ecosystem to thrive, different parts must work together. This is essential for the survival of birds everywhere.

10. Enjoy and bond with nature where you live, work and play!

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when appreciating bird life – don’t forget to enjoy yourself.

You can read more about how we live with birds in Welcome To Subirdia.


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