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Wildlife Roundtable: How you can help our local birds

Jen Prusse
The Wildlife Roundtable
The yellow-rumped warbler makes a distinct sound. Recently throughout the Southwest and in Colorado, bird watchers have observed mass mortalities of our migrating songbirds, including in Eagle County. This horrific event is hypothesized to be due to starvation as birds flee the West’s wildfires.
Rick Spitzer | Special to the Daily

Birds are falling out of the sky! It’s October and in the Southwest and Colorado, we’ve seen mass mortalities of our migrating songbirds, including in Eagle County.

This horrific event is hypothesized to be due to starvation as birds flee the West’s wildfires before they’re ready to migrate. Such early departures mean they don’t have the fat stores they need to travel from the Western U.S. to their wintering grounds in primarily Central and South America.

This adds to last year’s dismal reports on avian trends: that we have 3 billion fewer birds in the U.S. and Canada than we did in 1970, representing a 29% loss in abundance. While you may have read about this in the news already, the question should not only be, “Why is this happening?” but also, “What can we do to help?”

Granted warblers, swallows, and flycatchers, are insectivores, so hanging feeders with seed during the day would largely go unnoticed by them. However, suet, with its fatty lard-base, might help, as well as protein-rich mealworms. The seed would assist the other songbird species that have been found recently, such as dark-eyed juncos and house finches. Please bring the feeders in at night to avoid feeding the bears as well.

What are some other ways you can help?

  • Keep your cats indoors — they’re the No. 1 threat to birds and a leading extinction force behind our songbird declines.
  • Plant native wildflowers to support insect populations.
  • Support habitat improvement projects in the county. Volunteer.

Also, contribute to the science. The place to report dead birds is on the Southwest Avian Mortality Project iNaturalist page at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/southwest-avian-mortality-project. It’s on this page that you can find the top observed species: the Wilson’s warbler. (The male Wilson’s is a handsome yellow bird with a black cap and a small, thin bill for gleaning insects and spiders from leaves and twigs.)

If birds peek your interest, become a birder and contribute to the information on the status and trends in Eagle County and elsewhere. The Merlin bird app is a fun easy way to start learning today. Lastly, join Eagle Valley Birders! We have a Google group and could use participation. If interested, please email eagle-valley-birders@googlegroups.com.

Jen Prusse is a district wildlife biologist with the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District in the White River National Forest. The Eagle County Community Wildlife Roundtable is a collaborative partnership with the White River National Forest, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, local government entities, community members, and citizen scientists.


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