This Saturday (and much of the month of May) celebrates our migratory birds. International Migratory Bird Day, IMBD, is an effort to bring awareness to our birds and help keep our common birds common. Mother’s Day weekend in the midwest is the peak of spring migration and gives us our first glimpses of birds that have spent the last 8 months in the neo-tropics. Many birders enjoy this time because they see their first of the year baltimore oriole on their jelly feeder, rose breasted grosbeak at their seed feeder, and bluebirds building their nest in the nest box. In fact, Laudato Si’ Project has been checking the nest boxes we have installed at various sites and we already have hatched bluebird and tree swallow eggs!
These bird migrants make incredible journeys up and down the continents every year and face tremendous challenges. Take our ruby-throated hummingbird for example. On its southbound journey in the fall it makes a straight, non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico- 500 miles!! Our birds migrate using major “flyways” which include following coasts, mountain ranges, and rivers. In WI, we are blest with the Mississippi Flyway and in southeast WI, birds love to follow Lake Michigan North.
The focus of this years IMBD is “Helping Birds Along the Way.” All of us can do this on our properties to help. Of course, many of us feed birds which is a great way to supplement their diet in this energy demanding time. A more longterm approach would be ensuring you keep some area of your property natural for the birds. This might include prairie or woodland. These sites, no matter how small, create critical food and nesting sites for birds.
Another way to help birds is through your purchase choices. Let’s focus on a tropically grown commodity-Coffee. Coffee is our largest food import and second only to oil for any import. This means, what is happening down in Costa Rica, Belize, Columbia, or Brazil is really important to our nesting birds that spend 3/4 of the year there. One way to ensure that your coffee consumption isn’t stripping our birds of wintering grounds (pun intended) is to purchase “shade-grown” coffee. Shade grown coffee utilizes a canopy of trees within the coffee plantation allowing birds and other wildlife to be supported. See photos below depicting a shade-grown plantation vs a traditional mono-culture plantation. You can also look for Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certifications to support sustainable agriculture.
You can shop for sustainable coffee online but almost all grocery stores carry some sort of sustainable option. Pick n’ Save carries Cafe’ Fair brand which is shade-grown, organic, and fair trade. I call it the tri-fector of sustainability, taking into account the health of both the environment and humanity.
There is no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than with a little birding. Lots of events are taking place all over the state and you can see some on our Events Page. So this month, look up into the trees. Enjoy these winged treasures. There is a lot of beauty to be found in our natural world but we need to stop, listen, and look.
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Daniel 3:80