What’s the connection between the Spring Garden Guide, and avian influenza?
As I counted over 100 geese frozen in the river over the winter, it was motivating me to look more closely at bird health.
CBC reports that North America’s bird population has declined 29 per cent over the past 50 years. That’s about three billion fewer birds than in 1970 when I was growing up. It’s easy to see where we’re heading in another few generations if we do nothing.
Early last spring I was delighted to see robins and other birds feeding on worms on a nearby lawn. Then one day, the bird visitations abruptly stopped. The yard maintenance company had sprayed chemicals on the lawn.
Pesticide and insecticide use is among the top three factors contributing to the decline of bird populations. Obviously, chemicals kill food birds feed on. More than that, studies show that these chemicals compromise birds’ immune system, making them more susceptible to avian flu and other diseases.
Fortunately, safe alternatives to pesticides and insecticides exist, and we can use these in our own yards and city lands to support our local ecosystem. These include the use of natural pest control methods, alternative landscaping plans, and simple practices like mowing to a more beneficial height, and aerating the soil. Progressive lawn care companies are offering smart solutions.
In talking to others about this situation, it’s exciting to hear innovative actions happening right here in Lethbridge. More than one family has converted their lawn turf to native grasses. Others are regenerating their yard with bee-friendly ground cover mix. I’ve seen other gardens landscaped with stones and succulents. These are free of chemical use, need less water, and require less maintenance once established. A win for birds, the environment and us.
Fellow Canadians, coast to coast, are successfully supporting healthy local ecosystems. There’s “No Mow May” in New Brunswick, Toronto has a “Pesticide Free” program, “Bee Boulevard” in Calgary, and Vancouver has the “Greenest City Action Plan.”
What are your ideas on how we can help lead the way in environmentally sustainable practices, and give life back to birds?
Cathy Johnson Campbell