Photo: A bird on it doesn't make it bird-friendly

Sharp-shinned hawk drawing by Callum. (Credit: Theresa Hannah)

I love birds. So I'm often tempted to buy stuff with birds on it — earrings, home décor, dresses, etc.

An episode of Portlandia called "Put a bird on it" perfectly mocks the irony of nature lovers buying bird-decorated things that can actually hurt, not help, birds. (Exception: the prize I'm giving away for this blog from SpeeZees Tees!)

I can think of at least two ways to really help and appreciate birds:

Make your home/workplace safe for birds

More birds die each year from crashing into buildings and windows than are killed by cats, wind turbines and airplanes combined!

Try FLAP's simple tips to make your home and workplace safer. Reduce bird window strikes — relocate a houseplant, move the bird feeder or close the blinds. And find out how to report a bird collision.

Subscribe to the Queen of Green digest

Learn how to identify birds

Make this the year you learn to tell a pigeon or robin from a sharp-shinned hawk!

First, get outside with a local bird guide book or a handy backyard bird identifier. Pay attention to:

  1. Size: is it smaller than a sparrow or bigger than a robin?
  2. Markings: observe patterns (like streaks) or bold colours.
  3. Behaviour: how was it feeding, flocking or flying i.e., did it flap, soar or have undulating flight like a woodpecker?
  4. Habitat: a hawk over a wetland is probably a harrier AKA marsh hawk!
  5. Call or song: did you know you can identify birds by song? (Okay, I can — used to do it for a living — but you can learn, too!)

What have you done to help your feathered neighbours?

Comment on this blog to win a toddler-sized, 100 per cent organic cotton, sweatshop-free SpeeZees tee with a northern spotted owl on it! SpeeZees donates a dollar from the purchase of each owl T-shirt to the Wilderness Committee. (Draw date: June 9th.)

owl deep sea Ryder.jpg

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

May 17, 2014

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Dec 04, 2014
12:44 PM

We gave away suet feeders with bird-friendly packets of seeds to plant in the gardens in spring — as a party take home gift from my 8 year old’s birthday. Super proud of her for foregoing presents for her birthday and collected money to help the Western Screech Owl instead. And we’ll be building another bird feeder over Christmas.

Jun 09, 2014
11:30 AM

My husband and son just built a bird feeder together. We like to watch from the window what birds come by!

Jun 08, 2014
9:25 AM

Thank you for providing this interesting angle and for the educational ideas and links. We all too often get lured by consumerism — we need to keep our collective guards up!

Jun 04, 2014
1:07 PM

My toddler loves chasing and calling after crows, so I can’t wait to expand her repertoire a bit!

Jun 04, 2014
2:59 AM

Sadly this year we are a little bird unfriendly, we removed some junipers that the little birds like to play in and currently all our feeders are down or are empty as we work on our backyard. But in our front yard we have a large family of quail we love to watch and try to leave their trees untouched other than to tidy up weeds and littler around them.

Jun 03, 2014
7:51 PM

I’ve acquired two bird feeders from a neighbor (who picks up used ones at flea markets). Need to refill the hummingbird one!

Jun 03, 2014
7:01 PM

Our son had the biggest surprise when a fledgling bird jumped on his shoulder on his way to the ground from a short tree at his school! He keeps a log of the different species that visit our feeder — we’ll move it to a safer distance thanks to your tip. A few houseplants will find new corners as well. From our outdoor patio table we can watch a mother robin feed her babies as we eat our lunch outside — a great memory.

Jun 03, 2014
2:56 PM

I love birds and so do my toddler grandchildren. We look at and listen to birds whenever we can!

Jun 03, 2014
2:49 PM

I have never allowed a cat to go outdoors, and encourage all my friends to do the same by educating them on the dangers not only to the birds, but an indoor cat has a much longer lifespan. I volunteer at a wildlife rescue, that deals mostly with urban birds. I love them all!

May 31, 2014
11:43 AM

We are teaching our daughter different bird species to hopefully instil a life-long appreciation of birds so that she can help protect them in the future.

May 22, 2014
9:26 PM

We have been instilling a love of birds in our kids. They can identify many local birds by sight or song, now we’re going to start working on showing them how to identify birds themselves. It might mean handing over the binoculars… Not sure if I can let go.

May 21, 2014
8:29 AM

I would like to know: - where to buy, and - how to recycle polypropelene microfiber cloths, as mentioned on your website here: (sorry, there is no place to comment there, so I am putting the comment on the first place I see available.) Thank you.

May 29, 2014
7:49 PM

Great question Denise. I don’t know to but specific ones only made from polypropylene or where to recycle them. I’d ask a few companies. Maybe start with Norwex? I’ll put my feelers out, too and see if I can’t update that column.

May 19, 2014
5:09 PM

I love owls and my kids do too!

We show the owls our love by passing by quietly when we see them , instead of taking a hundred photos. Owls need their sleep too!

May 19, 2014
4:25 PM

We have a quaker parrot we adopted from a parrot rescue, as my husband loves birds. we have all manner of feeders in our yard. and we order our coffee from Birds and Beans, certified bird-friendly coffee, and delicious!

May 18, 2014
12:29 PM

Something as innocuous (seemingly) as extending a parking lot or improving storm drain capacity only benefits humans to the detriment of others. You’ll rarely see a goldfinch feeding at a big box plaza or a hummingbird nesting at a department store. Since I put a large pond in my yard, I’ve been able to s ee how important bodies of water are to many birds that aren’t waterfowl and how pristine level, dry and mowed back yards are antagonistic to birds. Islanding is another important issue mainly because we are happy to assume that merely creating some bird-friendly areas is sufficient. One of their salient adaptations is the ability to fly (duuh) which enables a lifestyle based on mobility. Turning the landscape into a crazy quilt of bird friendly and unfriendly areas with major barriers such as multi-lane highways and high-rise Berlin walls or massive corn fields disproportionately diminishes the benefit of bird-friendly areas. Many species roost in one habitat and forage in others which makes them incompatible with islanding. Also, many bird species exhibit a territoriality which doesn’t favor being crowded into small amounts of space. In any case, many species simply require trees — certain species frequent my back yard due to the presence of very large spruce trees.

May 18, 2014
12:12 PM

When enumerating, it should be a rule that items are listed in order of concentration, although omitting major items is also questionable. Bird kills by windmill strikes are at least 15th on the list even if one chooses to accept largely indirect evidence. I once sat in my car at the side of a highway and watched a fox collecting dozens of dead birds into a cache from a half km section of highway. When one does the numbers game, loss of habitat is the #1 cause but this is rarely even mentioned. Chemical pollution, particularly heavy metals from coal power and other industrial processes and pollution of water from spills but more frequently from sewage discharges can be cited as a major cause of bird kills, for example, the large decline in loon populations in northern New England. However, focusing on individual kill mechanisms is wrong headed: it is more important to look at the conditions for reproductive capacity

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