I first heard about the Bird City Wisconsin program back in 2004 when I was teaching an Urban Bird Conservation course at the University of Texas-Austin. When I went to work for Audubon later that year, this was one of the ideas I hoped we could get going nationally. No dice. At least so far. However, the efforts are growing. Bird City Wisconsin is now spearheaded out of Milwaukee Audubon and Steve Saffier who worked with me at Audubon now has a similar program up and going in Pennsylvania.
There are now 60 bird cities in the Badger State. To become a bird city, municipalities must meet at least 7 of 22 criteria that include creation and protection of habitat, community forest management, addressing hazards to birds, public education, and celebration of International Migratory Bird Day.
In addition to their website, you can check out Bird City Wisconsin on Facebook.
Audubon Pennsylvania has a great Bird Town program that helps local municipalities improve the habitat value of their town, promote environmental stewardship, and recognize their efforts. Among the criteria to become a Bird Town, a municipality must:
1) Complete a Bird Town Application
2) Agree to work with Audubon to immediately promote their Bird Town status by:
- Publishing the “Welcome to Bird Town” article in their next newsletter
- Creating a Bird Town webpage on the municipal website
- Posting at least five street signs (provided) and one banner
- Providing Audubon with local press contacts to promote Bird Town Backyard Workshops
- Making outreach materials available to the public
3) Assign a point person to act as liaison between the “town” and Audubon.
4) Promotion of a Bird Town Festival. This may be a regional festival, a stand-alone municipal festival, or part of an existing eco-fest or community day
So far there are 19 Bird Towns in 7 Pennsylvania counties. Another great idea from Audubon PA, a leader in urban bird conservation among the Audubon network in the U.S. Check it out!
Wish I were able to attend this recent conference in Egypt, and especially to see this interesting presentation by Nicole B. Hansen.
Foul Fowl: Birds as Agricultural Pests
Birds are often thought of by Egyptologists for their frequent appearance as hieroglyphic signs, as a significant source of dietary protein, as animal mummies, or for the reverence shown to them in the ancient religion. Because Egypt was, and still is, an important migratory corridor for birds and a place where they have long refueled themselves before continuing on their journey over sea and desert, they are also one of a number of fauna that posed a threat to the food supply in ancient Egypt, alongside insects, mice, monkeys and even hippopotami. This paper will explore the role of birds as agricultural pests in ancient Egypt, using ancient archaeological, artistic, and textual as well as modern ethnographic and ornithological evidence. The species of birds responsible for such depredations, the food sources (fruit, grain and animal) that they targeted, and behavioral and seasonal aspects will be discussed. In addition, various preventative tactics, means of scaring, and traps used to reduce the damage that birds caused will be covered.
Why should bird conservationists work with homeowners associations? San Diego Audubon has a great workbook answering this question, and providing guidelines for creating and implementing sustainable, nature-friendly landscaping projects within planned communities administered by a homeowners association. The 20 page guidebook also includes a case study from the community of Eastlake in Chula Vista, California, where the Audubon chapter was able to work with local partners to plant 472 native shrubs and 16 trees on a 1.4 acre hillside. In addition, 71 participants came to 4 workshops, and additional sustainable landscapes were created on 14 private and3 community properties were certified as habitat.
Check out the guidebook here: Community-scaled Conservation in Planned Communities
In dense urban environments, were there isn’t a lot of open space for habitat, pioneering urban ecologists have been constructing green walls of vegetation to serve as habitat and improve the air quality and thermal properties of the city. This week BirdLife Netherlands unveiled their own new green wall, complete with a Great Tit nesting box, as urban bird habitat at their offices in Zeist. Here’s a local Dutch news story with more picture of the wall and nest box (use Google translate to read it in English) .
BirdLife Netherlands has published the proceedings of an Urban Bird Conservation workshop held last year in Auckland, New Zealand as part of the International Congress on Conservation Biology. I was privileged to be a part of the workshop, and was one of the authors of the report. Included in the report are suggestions for urban bird conservation priorities and approaches as determined by the workshop participants from around the globe.
You can download the report below (.pdf)
Urban Bird Conservation: For Birds and People
Pest Control Technology, the pest control industry magazine, recently featured me in an interview about urban bird control. Check it out.
In 2005, New Jersey Department of Transportation began implementing a Grassland Eco Mow Zone (GEMZ) program to cut down on roadside mowing expenses. As indicated on the sign, these mowing regimes not only save money, they do provide additional habitat for goldfinches and other grass seed eating birds.
My favorite sign from a recent trip to Austin, TX. A local humor writer once quipped that the Great-tailed Grackle should be the official bird of Austin, and huge roosts in parking lot trees are a big part of living in that city. This was a warning sign in a hotel parking lot. There was more than just words on that sign to give warning!
Walmart may turn out to be the biggest protector of urban wildlife habitat yet. Check out the latest Walmart efforts, involving $500,000 in grants to projects in DC, Chicago, NYC, and LA. Walmart’s Acres for America program has already protected over 625,000 acres of wildlife habitat.