IT'S migration season, and 5 billion birds are traveling. Millions are in Southern California's skies, where they fly mainly at night and stop in the morning or early afternoon to rest and feed, often in home gardens.
Songbirds, seabirds, shorebirds -- they're in flight from March to June, heading from winter homes in the south to summer grounds as far north as the Arctic, where they will breed.
"It's so glorious. Tens of millions of birds are passing through our area right now," says Garry George, executive director of Los Angeles Audubon. "You'll see different types depending on where you live."
Inland routes are taken by warblers, vireos, thrushes and tanagers, he says. On the shoreline you may see huge fronts of ducks and geese traveling together. But the perils they face are daunting, and natural threats are made worse by human actions. To make migration safer, some suggestions from experts:
Turn off lights. Kimball Garrett, ornithology collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, says strong points of light can confuse birds and cause them to hit buildings. Turn off as many lights as possible in springtime. Fit exterior lights with shields that direct light downward.
Prepare windows. If startled while resting or feeding, birds may mistake a window or glass door as an escape route. Reduce collisions with decals, netting or screens. Place feeders within 3 feet of a window (ensuring any collisions will occur at low speed) or more than 30 feet away (where confusing reflections have less effect).
Keep cats indoors. They kill an estimated 1 billion birds each year.
Avoid pesticides. "Birds eat insects and seeds, which are poisoned by pesticides," Garrett says, "and then the birds are poisoned too."
Provide water and food. Plant native flora for birds' dining pleasure. Help the birds, Garrett says, and you'll benefit yourself. "If they find a good place where they are safe, have food and water, they may rest a while longer."
Information: www.audubonathome.org (click on "Helping birds & wildlife," then "Keeping wildlife safe").
-- Bettijane Levine