Conservation Conversation — October 2013

A Bird-Friendly Los Angeles?

By Garry George, Conservation Chairperson

We enjoy our birds and birding in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County continues to rank with San Diego as the Birdiest County in the U.S.

Los Angeles is very Birder-Friendly.

But is Los Angeles Bird-Friendly?

Other cities in the U.S. and other Audubon chapters have adopted programs to reduce threats to birds especially during migration when our local populations expands by the millions on their way to breeding or wintering grounds, or arriving in Southern California to winter.

Lights Out!, Cats Indoors! Bird-Friendly Buildings! Don’t Take the Bait! (a ban on rodenticides that leave poison residue in animals that end up as prey and poison for raptors) are alive and well in San Francisco, Toronto, Chicago, Minneapolis and other cities in the U.S. and not only help birds thrive but bring new members and supporters to Audubon chapters.

Over the ten years I’ve been with Los Angeles Audubon I have seen some bird-friendly programs emerge from dedicated volunteers: our Tree-Trimming Guidelines to protect birds created by Linda Navroth and Eleanor Osgood has been adopted by Culver City and Whittier Narrows Park and other communities around California. “Kill Your Lawn” has provided some habitat in yards and conserved water, and inspired our Greenhouse Interns to create a fantastic comic book. But we never expanded either of these programs to scale throughout Los Angeles County nor engaged our city.

In fact, the City of Los Angeles seems to be a big challenge for a bird-friendly program. The City has proposed a Cat Program that would raise the number of pet cats (which can roam outside), give special rights to people who feed stray or feral cats, allow people to feed as many stray or feral cats on a property as they wish (by exempting “unowned” cats from the limit on the number of cats that can be kept at a property), and authorize release of cats back to the streets that are turned into animal shelters. That means thousands more stray and feral cats per year returned to our streets and yards. – not bird friendly.  The City built a wind energy project close to Butterbredt Springs that has the second highest mortality rate of birds ever recorded at a wind project in the U.S. and has killed 9 Golden Eagles so far in the first 1.5 years of operation – not bird friendly. New buildings even in parks and museums that are landscaped to attract birds have huge plate glass windows with which those birds collide – not bird friendly. Citizens and city landscapers love their lifeless lawns and exotic plant species that attract only crows, lifeless dead zones that could be living habitat – not bird friendly.  

We share in the responsibility for this. Los Angeles Audubon has not targeted a campaign to educate our decision makers and civic leaders on the economic, ecological, and spiritual importance of birds to the citizens of our City.

A U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service survey reported that in 2001 46 million citizens identified themselves as bird watchers spending over $85,000,000 (billion with a “b”) in economic output creating over 863,406 jobs but our civic leaders don’t know this.

Birds provide ecological services ridding our city of pests such as insects, rats, and pigeons while transporting seeds and pollinating plants, but our civic leaders don’t know this.

Birds provide a spiritual and health benefit to citizens as they fly up taking our spirits with them, and their song brings our attention to nature and make us happy. Imagine a world with no bird song.

Can Los Angeles Audubon take on the task of making Los Angeles Bird-Friendly?

Our Board will be considering this in upcoming meetings, and whether we have the capacity to mount programs such as this will depend on you, our supporters.  It will take time and resources to build and sustain a Bird-Friendly Los Angeles team and we’ll need your help.

But if birds thrive, it would be worth it.


Published Western Tanager Vol. 80 No. 2 Nov/Dec 2013