Audubon hopes workshop will help curb bird population decline

While watching birds in flight or simply hearing their sounds during these warm spring days, one probably doesn’t realize our bird population is amid a dire situation that has been a problem for the past half-century.

“In the last 50 years there has been a drastic decline in the bird population in North America,” said Alice Thurau, president of Seneca Rocks Audubon Society. “We have lost 3 million birds in North America alone.”

The solution to this problem can begin in our own backyards.

On June 24, members of the Seneca Rocks Audubon Society will present “Gardening for Birds and Pollinators” at the Sawmill Center for the Arts in Cook Forest State Park.

Three expert presenters will provide ideas on how to change traditional landscaping into native plant gardens that will attract pollinators and birds.

Among the many threatening issues are loss of habitat, use of pesticides and climate change.

“We are hoping through our workshop to generate interest in having people put purposeful plants in their backyard,” Thurau said. “That will help the insects and help the pollinators. If there are lots of insects, then there will be lots of birds.”

In addition, bird collisions annually claim millions of birds’ lives.

“They will fly into windows,” said Paulette Colantonia, Seneca Rocks Audubon Society education chair. Some people put decals on their window to divert birds from the glass, but “the decals have to be close together or the birds will try to fly through them. A series of dots applied to the window will do the trick.”

Most people don’t like insects, but some can be beneficial.

“Butterflies, moths and native bees are all beneficial. Even flies can be pollinators,” Colantonia said. “Other insects will eat other, less beneficial insects.”

Invasive plants also are harmful.

For example, kudzu was introduced as an ornamental plant and for erosion control in the 1880s, but quickly spread in the South and has taken over many native species.

“Locally, Japanese knotweed has strangled native species,” Thurau said. “Many of these plants have been introduced deliberately as a food or ornamental use.

“Some of the non-native plants have become invasive. Other examples are Japanese barberry and some varieties of honeysuckle. They are impacting our forests and along our rivers.”

According to Colantonio, these species could be spread by the wind or by bird dispersal.

“We want to educate and inspire people to be more conscientious about what they plant in their backyard,” she said. “Native plants provide more food, shelter and habitat for birds and pollinators.”

The workshop begins at 9 a.m., Saturday, June 24, at the Sawmill Center for the Arts. The facility is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible.

Tickets are a $20 donation minimum. Tickets are transferable, but not refundable.

There will be an optional guided bird walk before the workshop and a guided hike into the Cathedral Forest afterward, weather permitting.

Sponsors include Seneca Rocks Audubon Society, Clarion Conservation District, Cook Forest Conservancy, Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Clarion County, Cook Forest Sawmill Center for the Arts, C&A Trees, Quiet Creek Herb Farm, Ernst Seeds, Prairie Moon Nursery, and Greta and Bob Sawyer.