What is tomorrow?

Tomorrow, April 16, is International Migratory Bird Day, and Madison is officially celebrating it. The city gave the following reasons for inviting citizens to enjoy watching birds, and to take steps to welcome birds to our communities:

 

WHEREAS, Many citizens, both here in Madison and throughout the country, recognize and welcome migratory songbirds as symbolic harbingers of the change in season. Migratory birds are some of the most beautiful and easily observed wildlife that share our communities. These migrant species also play an important economic role in our community, controlling insect pests and generating millions in recreational dollars statewide; and,

WHEREAS, Migratory birds and their habitats are declining throughout the Americas , facing a growing number of threats on their migration routes to reach both their summer and winter homes. Public awareness and concern are crucial components of migratory bird conservation. Citizens enthusiastic about birds, informed about the threats they face, and empowered to help address those threats can directly contribute to maintaining healthy bird populations and encourage maintenance of diverse habitat patches of trees, shrubs and grasses along their routes throughout the Midwest. Effective bird conservation efforts require cooperative action and shared goals with the public through outreach programs to ensure stable and self-sustaining populations of birds. Madison is fortunate to have several locations in its park system that provide habitat to sustain these migrating birds on their journey; and,

WHEREAS, since 1993, International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) has become a primary vehicle for focusing public attention on the nearly 350 species that travel between nesting habitats in our communities and throughout North America and their wintering grounds in South and Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the southern U.S. Hundreds of thousands of people will observe IMBD, gathering in town squares, community centers, schools, parks, nature centers, and wildlife refuges to learn about birds, take action to conserve them, and simply to have fun.  IMBD officially is held each year on the second Saturday in May, but observances are not limited to a single day, and planners are encouraged to schedule activities on the dates best suited to the presence of both migrants and celebrants; and,

WHEREAS, on Sunday, April 16, 2017 Madison Parks will collaborate with community partners to host a Bird and Nature Festival at Warner Park.  This free public education event will celebrate all that our community has done for bird migratory birds, and inform participants about opportunities that remain,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that April 16, 2017 be proclaimed as International Migratory Bird Day in the City of Madison, to urge all citizens to celebrate this observance and to support efforts to protect and conserve migratory birds and their habitats in our community and the world at large; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that IMBD is not only a day to foster appreciation for wild birds and to celebrate and support migratory bird conservation, but is also a call to action to protect their habitat.

What is tomorrow?

How does noise affect birds?

Birds are the easiest kinds of animals to observe in our yards. They’re numerous, colorful, active, and loud.

In fact, birds are louder than they used to be.

Sound is important to birds – they use their calls and songs to communicate and attract mates. They also listen for predators and for prey, to find food and avoid becoming someone else’s meal.

Studies show that suburban noise – including traffic and lawnmowers – is making it hard for birds to hear each other. Birds are coping with the challenges of a noisy environment by becoming louder.

They’re also changing their songs, often shifting to a higher pitch that can be heard over the lower-frequency sounds produced by engines. In some cases, the variety of birds’ songs is decreasing, as individual birds converge on a song that their audience can hear.

Other studies have found that noise makes it difficult for birds to find food, because they spend more time looking for predators and less time pursuing their own prey. Noise can also cause birds to give up on an area altogether, and travel somewhere else in search of quieter surroundings. While that kind of mobility is usually not a hardship for birds, during migration, needing to travel further before stopping to rest and feed can threaten a bird’s survival.

Noise isn’t so great for people either. By turning the volume down in our yards, we can create a more pleasant environment for our neighbors, human and non-human alike.

How does noise affect birds?

What is habitat?

Habitat is an area where a plant or animal can live.

Whether or not a particular area is habitat depends on which species’ perspective you’re looking at it from. For example, the ocean is habitat for a whale, but is not habitat for a squirrel.

To count as habitat, an area must provide for a plant or animal’s needs. For example, habitat for a bird must include water sources, appropriate food, safe shelter, and a place to nest. Habitat for dandelions must include plenty of sun.

Lawns count as habitat, since by definition grass lives in them. However, few other species can meet their needs in or around a lawn. Overall, lawns are not very good habitat.

Natural yards provide better habitat by inviting in many plant species. These plants, in turn, provide much of what an insect or bird needs to call a place habitat.

Habitat loss is a major factor in species extinctions. Hundreds of North American bird species, as well as popular insects like bumblebees and monarch butterflies, are in decline. If we exchange poor habitat in our yards for better habitat, we can increase these species’ chances of survival.

What is habitat?

What are all these birds?

All over the planet, birds are on the move. While some species tend to stay put year-round, others are known to migrate thousands of miles, across continents and hemispheres, between their summer breeding areas and their warmer winter homes.

This Saturday, May 14, people in over 100 countries will take part in a birdathon, aiming to observe as many bird species as possible. In last year’s event, participants were able to spot a total of over 6,000 bird species.

While there aren’t so many species here in Wisconsin, this week That Yard hosted four new types of birds, bring the local total to 43.

The new visitors are:

  • The brown thrasher, a loud but reclusive relative of mockingbirds.
  • The indigo bunting, an unmistakable bright blue songbird.
  • The ovenbird, recognizable by its slow, calm movements along the ground.
  • The Nashville warbler, a small yellow bird that moves quickly through low vegetation.

Adding in the eight mammal species that have been observed, That Yard has now recorded over 50 species of vertebrates. (There are definitely no fish, and no amphibians or reptiles have been confirmed.)

None of these animals have caused any damage or trouble. Sharing space with other beings is a joyful way to live!

What are all these birds?

What was bird species #38?

What’s that hopping around on the side of the tree? If it’s not a woodpecker or a nuthatch, it must be a brown creeper.

Brown Creeper Photo

A bird’s behavior, along with its markings and song, offers important clues to identification. Perching on the trunk of a tree, rather than on a branch, is an unusual behavior that quickly narrows down the list of suspects. Some bird species perch this way in order to search for insects in the bark.

A second probably-new species was also observed in That Yard today, but has not yet been identified.

What was bird species #38?

What was bird species #37?

That Yard had been visited by a Turkey, but not yet by a Turkey Vulture.

Adult in flight

These large birds are often seen soaring over highways, looking for carrion. They are distinguishable from other large soaring birds by three main traits. First, they have red heads. Second, they fly with their wings lifted upwards in a V shape. And third, when seen from underneath their wings are two colors: dark along the leading edge, and silvery along the trailing edge.

Vultures aren’t the most popular birds, but they provide an important service. Few other animals are able to eat not-so-fresh carcasses. Without vultures, we’d have to clean up a lot more roadkill ourselves.

What was bird species #37?