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Your Backyard Could Help Migrating Birds Survive

Indiana University PhD student Katie Talbott sets a sparrow free at IU's migration research lab. (Seth Tackett, WTIU/WFIU News)

Purdue University researchers say migratory bird populations are going down because of climate change and habitat loss — but urban and suburban Hoosiers can help. 

Jessica Outcalt is a PhD candidate through Purdue’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. She says parks and backyards in Indiana’s urban and suburban areas can provide migratory birds with food and shelter from predators.

Outcalt says Hoosiers who want to help can plant native trees, shrubs, and grasses in their yards — but even smaller actions can make a difference.

“If you have a cat, keep it inside. Outdoor cats are actually the biggest cause of mortality for migrating birds. So by keeping your cat inside, you cut down on that,” she says.

Outcalt says putting reflective stickers on windows can also prevent birds from running into them.

Barny Dunning teaches wildlife ecology at Purdue. He says since the 1970s, North America has lost about 3 billion birds — some of which were grassland and forest birds found in Indiana. But Dunning says wetland bird populations have actually increased.

“We've put in a lot of time and effort and money in support of those habitats and those species. That implies that if we put our mind to it, we can reverse the declines in most of these other species,” he says.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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