April 2019

Vol. 47, No. 2

Embracing Bird Conservation at Home

Claudia Thompson


Cedar Waxwing feeds on native Amelanchier berries. All photographs by the author.

One of my very favorite birding spots in New England is at my own home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sitting on my back porch or nestled somewhere in the garden, I have delightedly observed and documented 80 species of birds over the past decade. It is not a large property—the 7,300 square feet of land includes the substantial footprint of a two-family house—located in a residential neighborhood with rows of two-families lining the streets. Yet, my birding experiences here have been rich and wonderful, and the wide variety of species present has increased as I have created valuable habitat that these birds use in diverse ways. Often, they are foraging and eating caterpillars, insects or berries. Some of them sing, call, or hoot to announce their presence, proclaim their territory, or look for a mate. Larger birds such as Red-tailed Hawks hunt for prey, catching squirrels or crows. I was even delighted and surprised last year to see a Blue Jay catch and eat a House Sparrow. A few of these 80 bird species have taken up residence in my garden at times, and not just the predictable American Robin. The highlight to date has been the pair of Downy Woodpeckers that built their nest one year in a large snag that I had created for just that purpose. There, they successfully raised and fledged two young. Watching all this bird life has brought me and my husband tremendous pleasure. More important, this habitat that I steward is also supporting life for a large number of species of conservation concern, whose populations are declining throughout eastern North America.

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