Pet Tales: Help the birds survive the summer

In the summertime, the livin‘‍ isn’‍t always easy for billions of wild birds in North America, according to the American Bird Conservancy. July, August and September are critical months as birds raise their young and prepare for migration. Some studies suggest that as many as half of all migrating birds do not make it back home.

“Our birds need all the help they can get,” said conservancy president George Fenwick.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization that works to achieve “conservation results” for birds and their habitat emailed a news release with things we can all do to help birds. Threats include suburban sprawl, the drainage of waterways, pesticides, air and water contamination, glass windows and cats.

Most of the conservancy‘‍s tips are quite simple, starting with birdbaths. Birds, like other animals, can dehydrate if they don‘‍t have access to water. Bird baths and other “water features” should be cleaned regularly. I’‍d suggest wearing disposable gloves when scrubbing gunk out of the bottom. The Allegheny County Health Department has advised replacing water at least once or twice a week so that insect eggs deposited in the birdbath don‘‍t have time to hatch into mosquitoes.

Hummingbirds need nectar as they prepare to fly south in the fall, and feeders filled with sugar water can help them. Regularly clean hummingbird feeders and replace the sugar water before it ferments -- usually within three to seven 7 days depending on the heat and sun.

Keep dogs and cats away from young birds. The American Bird Conservancy is not popular with cat lovers because the organization has repeatedly complained that “free-roaming cats kill billions of birds every year,” especially young fledglings that spend time on the ground. This release notes that “loose dogs also have an impact on nesting birds. ... Roaming dogs are suspected of recently wiping out a colony of threatened Least terns in Florida.”

People who love and defend cats have argued that ”glass strikes“ kill more birds than cats do. I don’‍t know who could possibly keep an accurate count on this, but the conservancy says millions of birds die each year when they fly into glass windows. There are many suggested solutions on its website, including putting tape or decals on windows. It also suggests turning outdoor lights off at at night because bright artificial lights can disorient migrating birds and make them more likely to fly into windows. Blue and green LED lights ”are less distracting to night-migrating birds.“

”Be a good landlord,“ according to the press release. “If you‘‍re lucky enough to have swallows or phoebes nesting on your porch or carport, keep the nest intact.” The birds “will help you out by eating hundreds of insects each day. However, “old nesting material attracts parasites and can be a source of disease,” so after the young have fledged, clean out the nests.

Make your yard a bird-friendly habitat by “letting some of your yard go wild or garden with native plants.” Avoid or minimize tree trimming to prevent disturbing nests. When possible, avoid mowing grass in large fields and roadsides until after July, when ground-nesting birds fledge.

Leave baby birds alone. If you find a baby bird out of the nest, don’‍t pick it up or bring it indoors. “In almost all cases, the parents are nearby and know best how to care for their young.” An exception is injured birds, which should be taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Don‘‍t spray pesticides. “Even products labeled as safe will likely have negative consequences on birds.” Home and garden products with neonicotinoids or neonics “have been found to be deadly to both bees and birds in even minute amounts.“

Celebrate good times without balloons. Birds can become entangled in the long ribbons and strings, and the conservancy claims birds have been found hanging from trees. Birds can also ingest deflated balloons, which will block their digestive tract and cause them to starve.

Be a bird-friendly boater by steering clear of of places where water birds congregate because that’‍s probably where they have their nests. When boats come close to nests, birds may abandon their eggs and their young.

Fishing line and lead weights can kill birds. Discard fishing line in trash cans and use only lead-free tackle. ”Scores of birds suffer mortal poisoning from ingesting lead weights in fishing gear,“ according to the conservancy.

This tip sounds difficult: ”If you accidentally hook a bird, don‘‍t cut the fishing line. Instead, net the bird, cut the barb off the hook and push it backward to remove.“

Pet blessing

Pastor Carl A. Johnson of St. John’‍s Lutheran Church in Kittanning will bless animals to benefit the homeless animals at the Orphans of the Storm shelter. Animals will be blessed today from 10 a.m. to noon in the church parking lot, 218 N. Jefferson St. Donations will be collected for the shelter.

Nathan Winograd speaks

Author and no-kill activist Nathan J. Winograd will be in Pittsburgh on Friday in an appearance sponsored by the Elizabeth Township rescue group In Care of Cats Inc.

A $5 ticket covers the speech, a movie and vegan refreshments. The event will be 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Duquesne University, Maurice Hall/Mellon Hall of Science, 600 Forbes Ave.,Uptown (15219). Parking is available in Forbes Garage.

Go to to order tickets.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.






Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.

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