Five ways you can make a difference for migratory birds

Celebrate World Migratory Bird Day –take action!

May 11, 2018
Conservation efforts have helped grow wood duck populations.
Conservation efforts have helped grow wood duck populations. © DUC/Chris Benson

World Migratory Bird Day is Saturday, May 12. To celebrate this special event, we’re highlighting simple ways you can improve the lives (and journey) of our waterfowl and other migratory birds.

“Anyone can make a difference,” says David Howerter, director of national conservation operations at DUC. For an example of an everyday act that has led to great conservation, Howerter singles out efforts that have supported wood ducks.

More than 100 years ago, it seemed likely this colourful duck would be extinct by the turn of the 20th century, as a result of overhunting and overharvesting of their preferred nesting habitat—large, knotty trees.

Rather than watch the wood duck disappear, like-minded people banded together to find ways to rebuild their populations. One way was to limit their hunt. Another was to provide them with a place to nest. People began to build and maintain nest boxes. Placed near wetlands, these simple, four-sided structures give wood duck hens (and other cavity nesters), a safe place to lay and incubate their eggs.

Today, thousands of nest boxes are maintained by DUC volunteers (read about them here, here and here) across the country. As for the wood duck? “Their populations are doing well,” says Howerter.

Building and maintaining nest boxes is one way a person can help waterfowl, “but it’s not the only way,” says Howerter.


A volunteer helps a young girl build a nest box at a DUC event in Nova Scotia.
A volunteer helps a young girl build a nest box at a DUC event in Nova Scotia. © DUC

Other everyday acts that benefit waterfowl and/or other migratory birds:

  1. Participate in a bird survey or bird banding activity. Knowing the location and population dynamics of our feathered friends can help inform conservation efforts.
  2. Place decals on your windows or close the blinds. Birds have trouble seeing the glass. You can help them avoid crashing into it, by making it more visible.
  3. Turn the lights off. Many birds migrate at night, and artificial lights can confuse them.
  4. Keep your favourite felines away from our winged friends. Cats continue to be one of the top causes of mortality among birds.
  5. Consider supporting conservation organizations that restore, conserve and safeguard habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. Because when birds need to migrate thousands of kilometres, the last thing they should have to worry about is where they’ll land.

“Most ducks are habitat generalists. This means that if there are habitat and food available—they’ll be OK,” says Howerter.