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What You Can Do

Top Ten Ways to Help Birds in Cities

1. Make your windows bird-safe.

Collisions with window glass kill as many as a billion birds a year. Strategies for making windows safer, including effective netting and the safest placement of feeders, can be found in the article Make Your Windows Safer for Birds in this edition of

2. Support your nearest “lights out” program. If you’re in a high rise, turn off lights or close drapes at night.

When nocturnal migrants find themselves in a lighted space, they mill about, reluctant to head back into darkness. They are often killed in collisions with one another and with buildings. Help give them safe passage.

3. Learn about bird-safe building guidelines.

If you are building or remodeling or simply want to advocate for birds, learn ways people can make buildings safer for birds. New York City Audubon, the City of Chicago, and the City of Toronto have guidelines for bird-safe buildings,..

4. Avoid using fertilizers, insecticides, or herbicides.
Fertilizers work their way into groundwater, rivers, lakes, and the ocean, contributing to pollution and oceanic “dead zones.” An estimated 7 million birds die each year because of exposure to lawn pesticides, which may also be detrimental to humans. In a recent study of pesticide exposure among children living in a major U.S. metropolitan area, traces of garden chemicals were found in 99 percent of the 110 children tested. Learn more by visiting

5. Ride a bike or public transportation when possible.

An estimated 60 million birds die each year from collisions with cars. Pollution and habitat destruction from drilling, transporting, refining, and using petroleum products kill many more. Driving less, and driving slower, saves birds.

6. Green your corner of the world with native plants.

Whether you live in the country or in an urban high rise, green spaces provide food and resting places for many birds. Plants native to your local area are adapted to local conditions and provide many benefits for native birds. Learn how to provide urban green spaces at,, and

7. Keep cats indoors.

Cats kill an estimated 500 million birds every year. Outdoor urban cats are especially vulnerable to autos, infectious diseases, poisons, and injuries in cat fights. And cats that toy with or eat birds are most likely to carry toxoplasmosis and other diseases. Keeping cats indoors protects humans and the cats themselves as well as birds. Learn about the Cats Indoors campaign at

8. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The more demand for new paper, the less sustainable forestry becomes, and paper production is a very polluting process. Minimizing our use of paper products protects bird health and habitat.

9. Support local nature walks and other environmental education programs.

The more we know about the plants and animals around us, the wiser our choices will be about local and regional issues aff ecting the natural world. Also, nature walks are a fun way to get other people interested in birds and the local environment.

10. Participate in citizen-science programs such as eBird, Celebrate Urban Birds, FeederWatch, and NestWatch.

Contributing information through these programs gives scientists a broader database for studying changes in bird populations, and provides other birders with useful information as well.


For permission to reprint all or part of this article, please contact Laura Erickson, editor, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd., Ithaca, NY, 14850. Phone: (607) 254-1114. email:

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