Virtually all of our backyard birds would survive without our feeders. Yet bird feeding stations can be crucial for the continued survival of some species, and some feeders even play an important role in protecting against climate change. How is it possible ?
I discovered it with my own eyes in September 2016, when I visited northern Peru. A South American conservation organization, the Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos, works tirelessly with support and assistance from the American Bird Conservancy, the Alliance for Zero Extinction, BirdLife International, and various other partners to protect critical Andean ecosystems. Habitat protection is the goal, and bird feeding stations are one of the important tools used to achieve this.
BirdWatching Editor Laura Erickson
My group of birders took a route through northern Peru, heading to the famous Abra Patricia Reserve, located in the Yungas, a narrow transition zone along the eastern slopes of the Andes, where bird diversity is near the highest on the planet. Abra Patricia is an important conservation site, protecting over 25,000 acres for the critically endangered ocher-fronted anthill and long-whiskered owl, as well as a host of other resident tropical birds and wintering North American birds, such as the Swainson’s Thrush.
Huembo, a small reserve outside the nearby town of Pomacochas, was created in 2005 to protect the breeding and feeding grounds of one of the world’s most spectacular hummingbirds, the endangered Marvelous Spatuletail. The reserve also helps other rare species including a small hummingbird and woodpecker, the Little Woodstar and the Speckle-chested Piculet.
Great Looks at a Large Hummingbird
My group visited the Huembo feeding station in the afternoon when the light was low, but each birder got to see two spoontailtails. We also visited small feeding stations in other reserves to see such rare hummingbird treasures as Koepke’s hermit crab, Gould’s Jewelfront, and rufous-crested coquette.
Birdwatchers and ecotourism groups are allowed to visit feeders in exchange for small monetary contributions. Donations provide a steady stream of income, allowing locals who once lived off logging or burning land for agriculture to live better by protecting habitat and showcasing rare birds. Even better, as more people learn how precious their hummingbirds are, more communities are choosing to protect their own lands. The feeders that make rare birds accessible to us provide the revenue needed to make habitat protection financially sustainable.
Any progress we can make in protecting tropical forests advances our fight against climate change – the burning of fossil fuels contributes about 14% of global carbon emissions, while tropical deforestation contributes about 15%.
Traveling burns natural resources, so after my trip I contributed to a carbon offset project. But I was thrilled to know that my enjoyment of Peru’s spectacular birds directly contributed to their long-term survival. -Laura Erickson
Laura Erickson’s column “Attracting Birds” appears in every issue of BirdWatching magazine. This article originally appeared in the January-February 2017 issue. Laura is co-author of Into the Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds, and author of Laura’s Birding Blog. In February 2014, she received the American Birding Association’s highest honour: the Roger Tory Peterson Award.
Five more columns by Laura Erickson
MORE THAN BIRDSEED
Four major threats to birds may lurk in your garden.
THE DONOR TREE
How red-bellied woodpeckers turned a bad place into a good nest.
Feeding birds involves serious responsibilities.
The nests in your garden are delicious, most of the time.
FOR YOUR HEALTH!
Steps to take to keep water features in backyards safe for birds.