Saturday, August 2, 2008

Risks To Wild Bird Populations Mitigated By Artificial Nest Boxes

24-7 - North American bird populations continue to decline at a steady rate due to human activities such as habitat loss, pesticide use, outdoor cats, window strikes, and power lines. A new Alberta company believes it's possible to mitigate some of those effects by providing artificial homes for wild birds. The biologist-run internet company named Northern Bird Houses goes two steps further than your typical department store 'pet aisle' by providing education alongside the sale of species-accurate bird houses.

"Birds around the world are in serious trouble due to human alteration of natural areas and massive consumption of resources," says award-winning biologist, Dianne Wittner. "Most of us could turn our own yards into bird-friendly habitat with a few simple steps."

Wittner says one of those steps is the addition of nest boxes and platforms. Tree clearing has led to a shortage of appropriate locations for cavity-nesting species such as bluebirds, swallows, wrens, chickadees, owls, woodpeckers, and even ducks. However, Wittner stresses the importance of not putting up "just any old box", but erecting nest boxes that possess the correct features, thereby increasing the likelihood of survival for offspring. "So many of the bird houses sold in large retail stores or pet stores will end up in early mortalities for its occupants," Wittner says. "For example, I was asked to help a youth group that had spent days painting and hanging dozens of bird boxes only to discover the box designs were absolutely useless. They had to start all over again. If we really want to take positive action for birds, we should sell products that save lives and enhance conservation."

The development of Northern Bird Houses, a dot-com enterprise, was a result of Wittner's frustration with the lack of good information for consumers. "It's not like selling a set of curtains that turns out to be mismatched or the wrong size. If you sell a nest box that is not properly designed, lives are lost. We simply can't afford to lose any more birds unnecessarily."

In the U.S. and Canada, statistics indicate bird mortalities due to human factors to be in the tens of millions every year. Creating environmentally friendly yards that provide shelter and food is a growing trend but it's not enough.

Erecting bird houses is not a new concept; the come-back of bluebirds in the last fifty to seventy years has been largely aided by artificial nest boxes made by people. However, an internet outlet that sells properly designed houses, provides free and accurate information for their use, provides loads of professional reference material, and donates a percentage of proceeds to conservation organizations, is both innovative and responsible. Operators of the site hope to raise awareness and encourage action all over North America while raising money at the same time.

Bird watching is this continent's second most popular leisure activity and still on the rise. This new website,, allows bird lovers to browse products in total confidence, knowing each one is tested and proven safe. Many visitors to the site are simply looking for information or photographs that can be used in school projects, reports, or for personal use. There is so much free stuff shoppers don't even need to take their wallets out to come away with something new. Furthermore, visitors can ask for material not found on the site, such as pictures to help identify species and additional references.

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