Send a message urging the Environmental Protection Agency to protect this critical habitat.
Send a message to your members of Congress, telling them to protect wetlands and to strengthen the Clean Water Rule.
Provide food, water, cover and a place for animals to raise their young, and your yard is on its way to becoming a Certified Wildlife Habitat.
Tell Florida legislators to prioritize Everglades restoration for migratory birds and other wildlife.
Because native insects did not evolve with nonnative plants, most of them lack the ability to overcome the plants’ chemical defenses so cannot eat them. Caterpillars, a particularly important food source for birds, are especially picky about what they feed on. Like the famous monarch butterfly larva, which must have milkweed to survive, more than 90 percent of moth and butterfly caterpillars eat only particular native plants or groups of plants.
To convince homeowners to plant more of these insect- (and bird-) friendly natives, “we need to put numbers on the consequences of landscaping with nonnative plants,” Tallamy says. Three years ago, he and SMBC head Peter Marra received a National Science Foundation grant to do just that and hired Narango to carry out the project. She works through the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch program, a 15-year-old citizen-science effort that enlists volunteers to record observations about nesting birds in their yards.
While the parents were busy feeding their hungry offspring, Narango and her team kept busy observing where the birds foraged and what they were feeding their young. The biologists also quantified the amount of native and nonnative vegetation within the birds’ territory and counted the number and kinds of insects on these plants.
At some of the 55 sites where chickadees produced nests last spring—including mine—Narango and her colleagues also mist netted and color banded birds (so they could be individually identified and observed from a distance), took blood, claw and feather samples (which will be analyzed for isotopes showing what the animals were eating) and video recorded adults feeding their hatchlings. It was great fun to watch these biologists at work without having to leave the comfort of my home.
Although native and nonnative plants seem to host similar numbers of insects, native trees support more of the caterpillars birds need to feed their young as well as “a more diverse suite of insect herbivores and predators,” Narango says. “Nonnative plants are good at supporting aphids and scale insects, which chickadees—as well as gardeners—tend not to like.”
“Chickadees prefer to forage on native trees, overwhelmingly so,” Narango says. “If you have a lot of trees that are not native,” she adds, “to the birds, it’s almost as if there are no trees at all.” For evidence, check out the map, below, showing where chickadees foraged in my yard.
Based on their videos, the researchers also discovered that parent birds vary from site to site in how many times they visit a nest with food as well as how many food items they bring each visit. While some arrive with a single caterpillar, others show up with a beak full of three to four insects. “It seems that some chickadees have to work a lot harder to bring back enough food to raise a clutch,” Narango says. “After analyzing the data, we should be able to relate this effort to a site’s dominance by native or nonnative trees.”
This year, Narango’s team is monitoring 156 sites with chickadee nest boxes, including mine. As of mid-April, “we have about 40 pairs building nests all over D.C., Maryland and Virginia,” she says.
But not in my yard—where I’ve seen no signs of chickadee-nesting activity. In fact, I’ve not seen or heard a single Carolina chickadee since last year’s clutch fledged in May. Narango tells me to hold onto my nest box and hope for better luck next year. “There are several yards where we got a nest in 2013 but no activity in 2014,” she says. “Those same yards are getting nests again this year.” She agrees it’s possible that one or both of my site’s parent birds perished since last spring, and it could take time for young chickadees to disperse into territories that are newly available, especially in urban areas that may offer lower-quality habitat. “It’s a tough world out there for a tiny bird,” Narango adds.
Help songbirds and other native wildlife by becoming a wildlife gardener.]]>
Now is peak migration time for many of these songbirds and they and other neotropical migrants are finally returning north to their breeding grounds – your backyards and gardens included! Bird lovers and wildlife gardeners can plant native trees, shrubs and wildflowers to feed and provide nesting spots for birds close to home, but what about the state of the habitat these same birds need when they fly south? Many of these birds overwinter in the Amazon.There are 28 migratory bird species (20 land birds and 8 water birds) that regularly call the Amazon home during the winter. This group includes songbirds such as the eastern wood pewee, chimney swift, gray-cheeked thrush, eastern kingbird, veery, black-whiskered vireo, red-eyed vireo, blackpoll warbler, and Connecticut warbler, as well as raptors such as the broad-winged hawk, peregrine falcon and osprey.
These species depend on forested habitats for food and shelter, but forests across the globe are disappearing at an alarming rate. About 30-37 million acres of forest are lost each year, the equivalent of 36 football fields per minute!In the Amazon, large scale agriculture is one of the main driving forces of deforestation. These agricultural goods are used to produce much of our food, clothing, and personal care products – from leather handbags and shoes to beef jerky and lip balm. This also includes soy used in animal feed in Europe and Asia, which ends up as nuggets and sausages in grocery stores and restaurants around the world.
However, there is some good news for our migratory friends and for their forested homes down south.NWF is leading the charge to help promote forest-friendly production for the key agricultural goods that are produced in the Brazilian Amazon. Just recently, NWF experts co-authored a new study that highlighted the effectiveness of a forest-friendly initiative focused on soy, known as the Soy Moratorium. The Moratorium was the first voluntary zero-deforestation agreement in the tropics, and it prevents major traders from selling soy that is linked to deforestation in the Amazon.
This agreement has been incredibly effective at safeguarding critical wildlife habitat against deforestation for soy in the Brazilian Amazon, thus helping to ensure that our migratory friends have a place to call home during the cold winter months in the United States.
According to the study, without the Soy Moratorium, almost 5 million acres of Amazon forest could be legally cleared for soy. In other words, 5 million acres of habitat for migratory birds could be lost. So, this is a big victory for our wildlife. Additionally, this new study helps reinforce the position that NWF has supported for years: maintaining and strengthening the Soy Moratorium (and other forest-friendly initiatives) is the best strategy to reduce agriculture-related deforestation and protect our wildlife.While you work to improve wildlife habitat at home through our Garden for Wildlife program, we are also working to protect wildlife habitats around the world. You can join us in this effort by reaching out to the retailers and manufacturers of your favorite products to ask questions like: “Does your company have a policy on zero-deforestation?” and “From where do you source your raw ingredients?” Help start the conversation at the local level. Every little bit counts and, when the homes of our migratory friends are at stake, we need to do all we can to help save their habitats.
Learn more about the Soy Moratorium and other ways the NWF International Team is working to protect forests in the tropics.]]>
While sitting on my balcony one morning this January, I spotted an Anna’s hummingbird chirping away. Insta-thrill. There’s nothing quite like having a ‘resident’ hummer. It’s a very special kind of privilege. My hope in documenting this journey is to pass that joy along to you.Hummingbird chicks hatch from eggs the size of raisins. As altricial nestlings, they barely look like birds at all…but we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because even hummingbird chicks possess an endearing quality that can make any nature lover swoon.
The two chicks hatched one day apart. At just 3 & 4 days old, they are still so tiny that the mother spends most of her day on the nest keeping them warm and protected. The rest of the time she’s searching for insects to feed them.
Click image to play the video.
Mama needs to eat too. Sugar water from home feeders or nectar from backyard gardens provide a quick boost of energy for busy hummingbirds. Here is the mother of the chicks coming for a quick drink. Listen to the sound of her wings as they beat faster than we can imagine.
Click image to play the video.
It’s not always flowers and sugar water in the life of a hummingbird! When other birds get too close to the nest, Mama needs to protect and serve. Watch what happens when another female Anna’s hummingbird stops by to check out the cute chicks (8 and 9 days old).
Click image to play the video.
Did I mention that hummingbirds don’t need to be potty trained? It is quite astounding that this behavior of going to the toilet (over the side of the nest) is innate. You’ll see that behavior as well as some awkward cuteness in this multi-clip video of the chicks between days 1 and 10.
Click image to play the video.
As soon as the chicks started to develop their wings at around 10 days of age, they were eager to try them out. Watch their wings develop over the course of just 5 days!
Click image to play the video.
At 17/18 days old, the chicks are really starting to look like hummingbirds in this short “day in the life” video. A few more days now until they fledge and start their journey of independence. To see more videos of the chicks up to and after fledging, head over to Facebook and enjoy the adventure.
Click image to play the video.
Anyone who has been blessed with a close encounter of the hummingbird kind will tell you how mesmerizing these tiny birds are. What’s even more amazing is that many people who have never seen one in the flesh feel the same way. That’s a lot of power for such a small creature.
You can welcome these tiny wonders to your garden with native plants or by making your own nectar. Attract these birds (and other wildlife) and submit your yard or garden to be recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat!
About the Author: Alexis Coram is a photographer and filmmaker from England. Alexis is currently based in Silicon Valley, California where she focuses on nature and landscape still and motion photography. Connect with Alexis on Facebook or her website.
The Hummingbird Project is the story of Annabel the Anna’s Hummingbird and her two chicks. The project was created by photographer and filmmaker, Alexis Coram, with support by Borrowlenses.com and Smugmug.]]>
It’s those eggs that are key for the red knot and other shorebirds. As the robin-sized red knot migrates, it visits its last stopover in New Jersey just in time to feast on fatty horseshoe crab eggs. By the time the birds depart, they will have doubled their body weight.The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds descending on the beach to devour millions of eggs is truly a marvel. But this national treasure is under threat, as the number of red knots decline precipitously. Since the 1980s, the red knot’s population has fallen by about 75 percent. Eroding beaches from climate change and coastal development, and the impacts of years of horseshoe crab overharvesting have pushed the bird to near extinction. NWF and its affiliate New Jersey Audubon are making a difference for the red knot in New Jersey. Also, along with affiliates in Pennsylvania and Delaware, NWF and the New Jersey Audubon are helping species across the Delaware River Watershed. From wetlands and living shorelines to restored dunes and oyster reefs, natural infrastructure projects are strengthening communities and defending the red knot’s habitat. Through the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, we’re working to make sure those efforts scale up to create a watershed that works together for clean water and healthy habitat.
But when Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Cape May and the bayshores it put an exclamation point on the threat to the red knot. An aerial survey conducted two months after the storm revealed that Hurricane Sandy destroyed 70 percent of the state’s prime horseshoe crab habitat. The population declines were bad enough that late last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially listed the rufa subspecies of the red knot as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. “Rufa” is the subspecies of red knot in America.
“The red knot migration is among the great wildlife marvels on the world. This listing will allow us to build upon our great successes in the Delaware Bayshore and help replicate our work in Delaware and New Jersey to improve critical red knot habitat in other parts of the country.”
– Collin O’Mara, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Wildlife Federation.
This year the coming of the red knot will herald another important event: the reintroduction of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA). The DRBCA, reintroduced on Tuesday in the Congressman John Carney of Delaware in the House of Representatives and Senator Tom Carper of Delaware in the Senate creates a $5 million grant program that will help protect and restore the Delaware River Watershed and create a comprehensive planning framework that would increase cooperation among groups in the basin. All of that adds up to a better chance for the red knot.
Please join us in thanking Congressman Carney and Senator Carper for stepping up to help keep the red knot’s home safe.
Thanks @JohnCarneyDE and @SenatorCarper for stepping up for wildlife! #AllAboutThatBasin http://t.co/iYCmyPjlKj pic.twitter.com/HIlgkGI0Ay
— Wildlife Action (@wildlifeaction) April 17, 2015
Related: Celebrating the Clean Water Act as We Restore the Anacostia River
In 1996, youth from the Earth Conservation Corps, under a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service, began releasing young bald eagles from Wisconsin at the National Arboretum in Washington in an attempt to restore the birds to the Anacostia region. At that time the Anacostia was one of the nation’s most polluted rivers, but in subsequent years, several pairs of eagles have built nests along the river, and the river is rebounding.
Washington, D.C. was recently named one of the Top 10 Cities for Wildlife as part of the National Wildlife Week 2015 Celebration. Did your city make the grade?]]>
Baltimore is well on its way to becoming a certified community. In the past two years, more than 300 homes have been certified attracting birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The more native plantings are used to attract wildlife, the greater potential there is for reaching the city’s Healthy Harbor goals and helping to clean the Chesapeake Bay.The community also has a chance to step up for clean water. By creating certified community rain gardens to help filter water runoff from city streets, residents can reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers and other pollutants that enter the Chesapeake Bay. Such pollution can feed toxic algal blooms that can make humans ill and impair fish, blue crabs and other aquatic wildlife.
To help protect our waters nationwide, the National Aquarium is asking people to pledge to protect and conserve water from Earth Day on April 22 through World Oceans Day on June 8. The actions taken can be as simple as giving up using plastic water bottles and bags to turning off the tap when brushing your teeth.
Baltimore residents can learn more about this project at www.facebook.com/bmorewild and how to certify their yards at www.aqua.org/certify. Anyone can take the pledge to help our blue planet at 48daysofblue.com.
Baltimore was recently named one of the Top 10 Cities for Wildlife as part of the National Wildlife Week 2015 Celebration. Did your city make the grade?]]>
One of Indianapolis’ resident peregrine falcons, KathyQ, lives and nests atop a downtown building. She even has her own Facebook profile with regular updates on her activities. Using technology to share these wildlife stories helps residents connect with the wildlife that is living all around them.
The Indiana Wildlife Federation also works to connect people with nature through their “What’s in Your WILD Backyard” programs, which offer fun and engaging ways to enhance natural habitat in even the smallest backyard, teaching that simple, small changes can have a huge benefit for butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. The wildlife-friendly habitat training offered through the Federation’s programs also support the smaller birds that falcons depend on for food. IWF’s diverse programs also promote hunting, fishing, wildlife and bird watching and other outdoor activities where Hoosiers are able to enjoy and benefit from the state’s natural resources.
Related: 6 Birds That Are Champion Flyers
Indianapolis was recently named one of the Top 10 Cities for Wildlife as part of the National Wildlife Week 2015 Celebration. Did your city make the grade?]]>
A community celebration is planned for Saturday, May 2, 2015 in Marshall Park to celebrate this momentous achievement.In addition to creating habitat for common backyard birds like cardinals and pollinators such as monarch butterflies, efforts to create more certified wildlife habitats, nature preserves and greenways throughout the City of Charlotte are attracting more surprising wildlife, like barred owls. In fact, the barred owl population in Charlotte is so strong that the city was chosen to be the site for the most extensive barred owl research study that has ever been attempted. Sponsored by the Carolina Raptor Center and conducted by University of North Carolina at Charlotte ecologist and ornithologist Rob Bierregaard, the study has found and monitored more than 200 nesting attempts by 78 different pairs of barred owls in both suburban Charlotte and the surrounding countryside.
Related: Hear the call of the barred owl and other things that go bump in the night
Charlotte isn’t the only city working hard in North Carolina to bring communities together to certify habitats. Over the years, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation has developed several complementary certification initiatives tailored for the faith community (Fellowship Actions Impacting Habitat), business and industry (Wildlife and Industry Together), new construction (Wildlife Friendly Development), and local island habitats (Island Habitat Program). This suite of programs makes a meaningful difference for wildlife and habitat and engages a diverse section of the community in their everyday activities to become strong voices for wildlife.
Charlotte was recently named one of the Top 10 Cities for Wildlife as part of the National Wildlife Week 2015 Celebration. Did your city make the grade?]]>
These burrows are simple to create and install, and other parks in Florida can follow Forest Lake Park’s lead. Their burrow includes pieces of PVC pipe to help protect the burrows from collapsing under the weight of mowers and other heavy equipment that maintain public spaces.
Residents can also create burrows in their own yards following these steps from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Cooper City is located in Broward County, which has been a Community Wildlife Habitat with NWF since 2005. The county encourages its municipalities to do the same. To date, 16 municipalities are registered or certified Community Wildlife Habitats. Burrowing owls are no strangers to the area. Portions of the movie “Hoot” were filmed in Broward County and Cooper City’s middle school celebrated the premier with a visit from cast and starring owls.
Broward County was recently named a Great Place for Wildlife as part of the National Wildlife Week 2015 Celebration. Did your city make the grade?]]>