For the Birds Radio Program: Free Gifts for the Birds in Our Own Backyard

Original Air Date: Dec. 8, 2000 (estimated date)

Minimize the use of lawn pesticides, don’t cut down trees in breeding season, and keep cats indoors.

Duration: 3′05″


This is the last in our series of programs suggesting gifts we can give to the birds that cost us nothing at all. Today we’ll cover a few little things we can do literally right in our own backyards.

First, learn to like dandelions. OR at least pull them by hand or hire a kid to pull them for you. Or, at the very least, spot spray them rather than applying weed-killing herbicides to an entire lawn. If a lawn-care company refuses to spray selectively, they are choosing to put the ease and efficiency of their operation over the safety and well-being of you, your family, and the birds living in your yard. Also, never use insecticides on your lawn unless an actual insect pest is causing harm. If you hire a lawn-care company, make sure their formula does not kill insecticides as well as dandelion-killing herbicides—many insecticides are very dangerous for birds that spend time on the ground, like robins and cardinals, and if the pesticide itself doesn’t harm them, the reduction of earthworms and insects will.

If you have trees to chop down in your yard, try to schedule their removal for early fall, after birds are done breeding for the year but before they need winter shelters. Too many times, little nestling woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches, as well as baby squirrels and raccoons, are killed when unsuspecting people destroy their home.

Finally, make a resolution to keep your cat indoors. Few cats mind being kept inside in winter, and if you stay firm come spring, it shouldn’t be more than a week or two before your kitty adjusts to the new rule, especially if you provide some interesting diversions indoors. For information about the serious effects on individual birds and whole populations, check out the link on my web page.

Every one of the sacrifices we’ve talked about this week really will help birds while benefitting human beings, too. If you have other suggestions for truly generous gestures that will reap benefits for birds and people during this season of giving, let us know either by sending an email or a note in care of this station.