State of the Birds 2017: Recommendations

Black-capped chickadee © Bill Thompson, USFWS

Table of Contents

Report Home | Key Findings | What You Can Do | At-a-Glance Find a Bird | Background | Citations


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Climate change presents enormous challenges for our planet. The threat may feel overwhelming, but it is a problem we can solve.

Protecting our birds, and ourselves, from the most severe projections of climate change requires that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. This needs to be done at personal, community, state, federal, and international scales. The actions required to achieve these goals largely fall into two basic categories—mitigation (e.g., reducing emissions of greenhouse gases), and adaptation (e.g., reinventing coastal infrastructure to counter sea level rise).

The most effective actions you can take to protect wildlife and be responsible stewards in the face of climate change fall into three broad categories:

  • Reduce existing stressors.
  • Minimize your carbon footprint.
  • Advocate and vote for policies that advance green energy, clean air and water, sound planning, land conservation, and wildlife protection.

Protect Birds & Other Wildlife

Wildlife face challenges from a number of different directions, and many of those challenges will be amplified by climate change. By dealing with the existing stress, we also help wildlife deal with climate change. Find out how >

Keep Cats Indoors

Free-roaming and feral domestic cats kill at least one billion birds annually, and they represent one of the most serious threats to birds in North America. Many of these deaths can be avoided, and bird populations can grow, if we move toward a new cat-owning ethic that mimics the ethic we have for the responsible ownership of dogs. All cats should be kept indoors, where they are safer from disease and injury and where they can do no harm to native wildlife. Adopting this simple and no-cost practice is the single most important thing a person can do to protect wild birds, and to protect the cat members of our families.

Make Your Yard a Sanctuary

Plant a garden for birds, butterflies, and bees (and yourself!). Plant native trees and shrubs, reduce the area covered by lawn, and install nest boxes. Eliminate the use of herbicides and insecticides on your lawn and trees. Then show your friends and neighbors how beautiful your yard is, and encourage them to do the same! Learn how you can landscape for birds and other wildlife.

Reduce Window Kills

Collisions with windows and man-made structures are estimated to kill one billion wild birds each year. Fortunately, there are some simple fixes that can greatly reduce the hazard. In your home, you can move feeders either within 3 feet or farther than 30 feet from picture windows to eliminate window strikes, and you can use window decals or tape to break up large expanses of glass.

In office buildings, you can advocate for the use of bird-safe glass and a seasonal Lights Out policy.

Buy Bird-Friendly Coffee

SMBC Bird-Friendly certification logo

Choosing bird-friendly coffee is a simple way to help protect high-quality bird habitat in the tropics. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) created the Bird Friendly® certification for coffee that is 100% organic and shade-grown. Look for their certification logo the next time you buy coffee! You can also search for bird-friendly coffee roasters in your area on the SMBC website.

Currently, you can purchase Bird Friendly® certified coffee at Mass Audubon's Audubon Shop and at Whole Foods stores. 

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

To avoid the worst effects of climate change we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at all scales, from individual actions to international agreements. Plus, you can save money and live better by reducing your own carbon emissions. Learn more >

Make the Switch to Renewable Energy

The most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to purchase your electricity from clean and green renewable sources such as wind and solar energy. It takes just a few minutes to sign up for the Make the Switch program, has an enormous positive effect, and doesn’t require you to change anything about your daily routine. When you Make the Switch, Green Energy Consumers Alliance matches your electricity use with local green power. It brings renewable power from wind, solar, biomass, and low-impact hydro to the collective grid on your behalf—all without changing your regular utility company.

Eat Less Beef & More Local Produce

Eating more vegetables and reducing food waste in your home can have a huge effect on your carbon footprint. One simple option is to eat less beef. Compared to other meats, getting beef to the dinner table produces 5 to 10 times more greenhouse gas emissions, requires 28 times more land, and uses 11 times more water. Another option is to grow your own produce, shop at farmer's markets, or join a community-supported agriculture program (CSA). Mass Audubon has two official CSAs—one at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln and another at Moose Hill Community Farm in Sharon. 

Choose Low-Emissions Transportation

Walk, bike, or use public transit whenever possible. Organize a carpool for kids’ sports teams and school events. When it comes time to purchase a new vehicle, a hybrid or an electric vehicle is the most cost-effective option. Owning a car that gets more than 35 miles per gallon is a good goal to set. And if you’re a frequent flyer, aim to reduce the number of flights you take each year or purchase offsets for the carbon created by your travel.

Use Your Voice

One of the most effective things we can do to address climate change is to get involved in our own communities and be active citizens. More information >

Get Involved in Local Planning & Open Space Protection

Most local officials are citizen volunteers. By getting involved with community planning efforts, you can have a tremendous positive effect. You can guide development to allow for large, interconnected open spaces that filter the air, purify water, sequester carbon, and provide otherwise diminishing habitat for plants and animals. The Community Preservation Act (CPA) gives Massachusetts towns an additional tool for protecting open spaces, funding preservation projects, and remaining resilient to climate change. 

To take the first step in ensuring sound community planning, check out our Shaping the Future of Your Community program. You can also learn about prioritizing land in your community for protection by using MAPPR, our easy online mapping tool.

Join & Support Local Land Trusts

Actions begin at home. Massachusetts is home to hundreds of land trusts, and all of them need your support. Find a local or statewide land trust, make friends, and help to permanently protect the land and water near your home.

Advocate for the Environment

Subscribe to our Advocacy emails and get a weekly list of community action items and ways to voice your concern for wildlife and clean air and water. We will help you support the growth of clean energy development and advocate for the wise management of our public parks and wilderness areas. Join us in protecting the state and federal Endangered Species Acts, the Clean Air and Water Acts, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the host of other regulations that make Massachusetts and the United States leaders in wildlife protection.

The Paris Agreement 

In 2015, a total of 196 countries voluntarily agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This historic Paris Climate Accord is the world’s first comprehensive climate change agreement, setting a long-term goal for limiting the increase in global average temperature, as well as improving adaptation strategies and providing enhanced support for developing countries.

Although the U.S. Administration subsequently withdrew from the accord, many governors and mayors, including officials from Massachusetts, pledged their commitment to upholding the goals of the Paris agreement at the state and local levels. Massachusetts also continues to implement the Global Warming Solutions Act, with statewide greenhouse gas reduction goals of 25% below 1990 levels by 2025 and 80% by 2050.

We can all help achieve these goals through our own personal actions, from choosing to purchase electricity from renewable sources (see Mass Audubon’s Make the Switch program) to speaking with friends and neighbors as well as public officials at all levels of government. Let your municipal officials and state and federal representatives know that action on climate change is a priority and that you support policies that help meet the goals of the Paris agreement. The state and local communities also need to plan and take action to help both people and nature adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change already underway. Support adaptation through state legislation, policies, strategy and funding.