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'Bringing Birds Back' conference addresses bird population decline

American Robin in Oshkosh, March 24, 2023 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
American Robin in Oshkosh, March 24, 2023 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
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OSHKOSH (WLUK) -- Getting out and doing a little birdwatching is a popular pastime, and it's part of "How WI Live" in Wisconsin, but a recent national study from the American Bird Conservancy warns bird populations around North America have dropped by 3 billion birds since 1970.

"The birds that we love to see every spring and hear, they're going away. So, if we can take some steps we can help reverse that and bring our birds back," said Lisa Gaumnitz, Save our Songbirds.

On a quiet road in downtown Oshkosh called Bay Street, different birds are feeding, flying and even foraging for nesting material.

"There are many birds that you may not notice that there are fewer of. There's many generalist species that just tend to do well no matter what. But if you're a birder, or if you're more of an ecologist, you would be noticing decreased populations," said Chuck Hagner, Bird City Wisconsin.

The "Bringing Birds Back" conference started Friday morning at UW-Oshkosh. Hagner says there are fewer birds than ever before. He says loss of habitat, predation from feral cats and fatal collisions with windows are some of the reasons why. He says people should plant bird-friendly native vegetation around their property.

"Even if you have a small yard -- or maybe just outside on the street corner, there's only just a small amount of land or wild-scape or green space -- you'd be surprised how birds find those spots and use them as shelter, as a place to rest when they're migrating from far south to far north," said Hagner.

As far as the glass? Officials here say an estimated 1 billion birds are lost every year after flying into windows. Gaumnitz says people can install screens on the outside of the window, and that's not all.

"You can take non-toxic tempera paint or oil-based markers and do squiggles on the problem window with a white pen or a white tempera paint. And if you're going to do a pattern, you have to have it spaced two inches apart. The idea is you want the bird to realize that it's a solid surface," said Gaumnitz.

And if it works, bird watchers say it's worth it.

"Let's get people together and talk about the ways that we all can take. Simple steps, easy achievable steps, so we have more birds going forward," said Hagner.

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The conference wraps up on Saturday.

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