The sound of a colony of singing
Tricolored Blackbirds - likened to cats
fighting - and the endless activity on a
cliff of nesting seabirds belies the
vulnerability of colonial birds to myriad
natural and human-related threats. The
latter include introduced predators and
competitors; disturbance to nesting,
feeding or resting areas; loss and
degradation of habitat; and fishery
conflicts. Fortunately, people can easily
reduce these threats by their actions and
Fight the Invasion
Alien species are those that have been
accidentally or intentionally introduced
into habitats where they are not native.
They are termed "invasive" if they cause
ecological harm, such as resulting in
habitat alteration and degradation, out-competing
or directly harming native
species. Birds gathered in colonies can
be especially vulnerable to invasive
species. Introduced species that prey on
birds, such as rats, cats, and foxes, or
that compete with birds for nesting sites
and food, such as House Sparrows and
Starlings, can depress or even eliminate
populations. Herbivores, such as goats,
and exotic plants can degrade habitat
quality or even eliminate use of sites by
colonial birds. Even insects, such as fire
ants, can kill nesting birds. Others
serve as disease vectors.
Help reduce the impacts of invasive
Never release unwanted animals to the
wild, and keep pets under control.
Drain water and remove any aquatic
weeds or other hitchhikers on your boat,
diving gear, jet skis, trailers, floatplanes
or other equipment before leaving an
Conserving Colonial Birds
- At Home and Away
Use native plants in landscaping.
Teach yourself and your children about
the richness of living systems and how
the reduction or removal of invasive
species is necessary to preserve
biological diversity and natural systems.
Participate in community groups
designed to restore habitat or to survey,
remove and report sightings of invasive
Learn more at
Do Not Disturb
It is possible for many birds to become
accustomed to human activities, and
some colonies thrive in areas of high
human populations. However, all birds
require "comfort zones" for nesting,
feeding or resting, and intrusion into this
space can threaten the birds' health and
survival. Disturbance at colonies can
have serious results. For example, when
wading birds are frightened from their
large open nests, eggs and chicks may be
scattered and left exposed to the
elements and predators. If disturbed
frequently, adults may abandon breeding
altogether, and the whole colony may
fail. Disturbance can have similar
effects on beach-nesting colonial birds.
On the open sand, exposed eggs and
chicks are subject to intense heat by day
and cold at night. Furthermore, their
coloration makes them practically
invisible on the ground, and people may
walk or drive over them unintentionally.
You can help reduce the harmful effects
Keep your distance from wildlife on
land and on water. Your presence may
keep birds from feeding, resting or
returning to their nests.
on the second
May, is an
web - http://birds.fws.gov/imbd
phone - 703/358-2318
web - http://www.BirdDay.org
phone - 1-866/334-3330
If your property contains wetlands:
Explore alternatives to draining or
filling as means of bringing lands into
production: waterfowl habitat; hay,
forage or wild rice crops; hunting and
trapping leases; and selective timber
Select upland rather than wetlands
sites for development projects and avoid
wetland alteration or degradation during
Maintain wetlands and adjacent buffer
strips as open space; there are easement
programs that subsidize these choices.
Learn more at http://www.epa.gov/owow/
Clean Up Our Act
Colonial birds' dependence on aquatic
habitats makes them to susceptible to
habitat degradation as well as loss.
Pesticides, fertilizers, metals, and
industrial chemicals have added large
nutrient and toxic burdens to freshwater
and coastal wetlands and open oceans.
These contaminants can poison birds
directly or damage the food chains upon
which they rely. Oil is a major
environmental threat: birds affected
annually by spills can number in the
hundreds of thousands in some areas.
Solid waste is also a problem. Colonial
birds, particularly seabirds, ingest
plastics and other artificial debris as a
natural consequence of foraging. They
are also caught in discarded fishing line,
nets and other wastes.
You can help reduce the effects of
pollution on colonial birds:
Be a careful user of pesticides,
following application and disposal
instructions carefully, reducing use, and
finding non-toxic or low-impact
Produce less waste: Reduce, reuse
and recycle. Look for alternative
materials or avoid excessive packaging
when deciding on purchases.
Participate in beach, river and stream
cleanups and monitoring programs.
If you fish, carefully dispose of lines,
nets, and hooks. Take the time to
recover miscast or snagged lines. Do not
encourage birds to loiter near fishing spots
by feeding them bait or fish wastes.
Do not intentionally force birds to fly,
e.g., while walking the shoreline.
Please steer your boats, kayaks, jet
skis, away from shore; this will minimize
habitat damage as well.
Keep pets leashed.
Honor the signs posted to restrict
entry into nesting areas.
Spread the word, sharing your
knowledge about the harmful effects of
Learn more at http://myfwc.com/
Most colonial birds live near water, and
these birds' dependence on aquatic
habitats such as river and stream
corridors, wooded swamps, barrier
islands, and coastal estuaries makes
them especially vulnerable to the
numerous threats facing water and
wetland resources globally. As rivers
are altered and wetlands drained and
filled, colonial birds lose places to feed
and nest. The loss and degradation of
coastal wetlands, subject to the greatest
rates of human population growth,
development and associated disturbance,
are especially damaging, since colonial
birds are concentrated on coasts.
You can help protect wetland habitats:
Get involved. Find out where wetlands
exist near your home, try to learn more
about them, and support educational and
Support wetlands and watershed
protection initiatives by public agencies
and private organizations.
Purchase federal duck stamps from
your local post office to support wetland
Participate in the Clean Water Act
Section 404 program and state
regulatory programs by reviewing public
notices and, in appropriate cases,
commenting on permit applications.
Encourage neighbors, developers, and
state and local governments to protect
the function and value of wetlands in
Practice good housekeeping. Dispose
of trash and fluids (e.g., motor oil)
properly. This will help reduce the
amount of pollution that is washed into
our waterways from storm drains.
Do not release balloons into the
environment and cut the rings of plastic
Educate others about the harmful
effects of pollution on wildlife.
Learn more at
www.oceanconservancy.com and http://
Careful Consumer Choices
Great numbers of ocean-feeding colonial
birds (seabirds) are incidentally caught
and killed by longlines, gillnets, and
other gear used in fisheries around the
world (an occurrence called incidental
catch or bycatch). Fisheries can also
have indirect negative effects on seabird
populations, by reducing the availability
of prey or altering the sea bottom
By being selective about the fish we buy,
we can influence fishery practices,
reducing the deaths of seabirds and
many other marine animals. Based on
information about fish populations,
fishing techniques, aquaculture impacts,
and bycatch, Monterey Bay Aquarium
produces a consumer's guide to seafood,
categorizing seafood into "Best Choices,"
"Caution" and "Avoid."
Learn more about responsible seafood
choices at http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/
One of the more memorable ways to
contribute to colonial bird
conservation is to volunteer in
monitoring, research and
stewardship programs involving
these birds. The American Birding
Association compiles a directory of
volunteer opportunities for birds.
Programs range from monitoring
local Purple Martins to three-month
studies of seabirds on remote
Central Pacific Islands. Learn
more at http://
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