Simple Steps to Save More Birds

Simple Steps to Save More Birds

By Hilary Turner

I was recently reminded of the importance of taking small, individual, and conservation-minded actions. John Norton and Kathy O’Neil, Nature Mappers with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, reached out to me with some questions about how to make their windows safer for birds. With the multitude of issues facing wildlife and the environment, it is easy to become jaded when it comes to our own actions, but John and Kathy’s conscientious approach to solving the window problem at their house reminded me that taking these small actions can be the difference between life and death for our fellow denizens of the planet.

Indeed, many of us read the shocking report published in 2019, by Kenneth Rosenberg, et al. indicating that there are approximately 3 billion fewer birds in North America than there were in the 1970’s. This equates to an almost 30% decline in bird abundance across species. The authors used data from multiple monitoring networks (including citizen science efforts like the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count) to determine this number.

Declines are being seen across many species and are not only limited to rare and specialist species such as the Black Rosy-Finch, but also include habitat generalists, such as the Brewer’s Blackbird, and introduced species such as the House Sparrow. The causes of these declines are broad and often interacting. For instance, urbanization and industrial agriculture converts native habitat which in turn impacts insect populations. Not only are the birds losing their homes; they are also losing their food resources.

Bird declines due to land use change are exacerbated by direct mortality. In 2014, Scott Loss and his coauthors estimated the annual anthropogenic mortality of North American birds. They found that behind domestic cats, windows are the second leading source of human-caused mortality of birds. Automobile collisions are third. In North America, between cats, windows, and cars, billions of birds are killed annually.


Automobile collisions are difficult. Roadkill is a widely recognized byproduct of our transportation system, and while collisions with many mammals can be mitigated with the implementation of crossing structures and funnel fencing, among other measures, it is difficult to keep cars from hitting birds. Speed reduction and carpooling can help, but ultimately, bird-vehicle collisions are likely here to stay.

Fortunately, the other two direct impacts can be mitigated.


Cats are a controversial topic, yet the answer is quite simple. Keep your cat under your control. There are many ways to do this. You can keep your cat safely indoors, where it is also less likely to get killed by a car, maimed in a fight, or preyed upon by wildlife. Just be sure to provide plenty of enrichment for your beloved pet inside your home. You can even walk your cat on a leash, like you would a dog, to get it the exercise it needs and the outdoor experience it may crave. If your cat loves to lounge in the sun, you can create a “catio,” which is a contained extension of your house where your cat can roam, but birds and other potential prey items remain safe.

Bells and brightly colored collars are not sufficient to keep birds safe, especially during fledgling season when young birds are not savvy enough to escape predation by these skilled hunters. Even if you do not have a cat, there are still ways you can become involved in this issue.Visit the American Bird Conservancy’s cat page for more information.


Windows are a relatively easy fix, as well. You may have heard of the mass mortalities that occur as birds are migrating over large cities at night and become disoriented by light. Like moths, nocturnal migrants are drawn to lights and exhaust themselves as they fly around high-rise buildings in large cities or die when they collide with the glass. The National Audubon Society and other groups have formed “Lights Out” initiatives to decrease avian mortality during spring and fall migration. Here in Jackson, birds and other wildlife can benefit from turning the lights off at night, not to mention the energy savings to humans and contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the problem is not only in large cities. Residential windows, like many of ours, are also fatal. Although individual residences and other low-rise buildings are not likely to see localized mass mortality events, there are more of these types of structures on the planet and the cumulative impact of these buildings is actually greater than the impact of the fewer lit up skyscrapers. Birds see their habitat reflected in the windows of low rise and residential buildings and collide with windows when they attempt to fly into the reflection of trees and other habitat features. Even if you see a bird appear to recover and fly away, many window strike victims die later from internal injuries. Fear not!

There are many simple solutions that will make your windows bird-safe. Most solutions involve using something to break up the reflection of the habitat. You can do this with tempera paint, window marking pens, tape, or paracord. Just make sure the markings on the exterior of your windows are at least 1/8-inch-wide and no more than 4 inches apart (2 inches is best, especially if you are thinking of little ones, like hummingbirds).

Decals, such as raptor stickers, are not effective, unless you place many of them on your windows, such that the maximum spacing between them is about 2-4 inches. You may think the markings on the windows will be obnoxious, but when I installed DIY Zen wind curtains on my home, it was only a matter of time before I did not even notice the paracord anymore; and window strikes declined remarkably and immediately! Even when I did notice the addition to my home early on, it reminded me that I was proud and happy to think of the lives I had saved. Similar to my experience, John reports that since installing his bird-saving window markings, he has noticed a reduction in strikes; however, the real test will be this winter, once his feeders are back up.

I hope you are inspired by John and Kathy, your fellow citizens who have chosen to take a small personal action in their lives to help birds. I hope you choose to make a small change in your own life that is beneficial to the other creatures with which we share this lovely world.

Give-Wildlife-a-Brake Ad Survey

We’re interested in your feedback!

Do you alter your driving behavior based on messaging from signs? Have you ever been in a wildlife-vehicle collision? Did you seen our Give-Wildlife-a-Brake ads on social media?

We hope you’ll devote 3-5 minutes to the survey (follow this link to the Google Form). Your answers to these and other questions will help us to improve our Give-Wildlife-a-Brake Program.

Take our Winter Wildlife Quiz!

Created on

Jackson Hole ‘Winter Wildlife’ Quiz

Do you consider yourself an expert on all things winter-wildlife in the Jackson Hole area?

We hope this quiz will test your knowledge when it comes to a few species synonymous with cold temperatures and deep snow here in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

As always, don’t forget to nature map your wildlife sightings when you’re out-and-about this winter!

1 / 9

Trumpeter Swans occur year-round in Jackson Hole.

In winter, it’s not uncommon to witness Trumpeter Swans flying between open water in the Snake River Corridor and Flat Creek Marsh.

True or False – Trumpeter Swans are assumed to mate for life.


2 / 9

Ermines’ coats turn white in winter to help them blend in with the snow, while elongate body shapes allow this predator to maneuver efficiently through subnivean tunnels in search of prey.

Which two species of weasels are you most likely to encounter in Jackson Hole?

3 / 9

Moose are also exceptionally well adapted to Wyoming’s winters.

However, warming temperatures and a dryer climate is likely to threaten moose populations in coming decades.

Above what winter temperature can moose start to experience “heat stress?”

4 / 9

The elusive wolverine is yet another creature linked to cold, snowy landscapes.

Known to travel extraordinary distances, in 2009 biologists tracked the movements of an individual wolverine from near Togwotee Pass (east of Grand Teton National Park) all the way to…..

5 / 9

Can you identify this hawk?

Pictured here is one of a handful of avian species that occurs in Jackson Hole exclusively in the wintertime.

Can you identify this hawk AND where it spends the summer (breeds)?

6 / 9

While wolves occur year-round in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, winter is an especially good time to be a wolf!

Wolves large paws act as snowshoes which keep them afloat while pursuing prey in deep snow. This advantage can translate into winter hunts having higher levels of success than summer hunts.

Do you know how many separate wolf packs currently inhabit nearby Yellowstone National Park?

7 / 9

Did you know that rabbits and hares are separate species?

Wyoming has both…but only one species of hare (pictured) has a coat that turns white in the winter.

This is likely a tricky question, but do you know how many species of hare are currently found in Wyoming?

8 / 9

When we consider wildlife well-adapted to winter, it’s hard not to think of the Canada lynx!

Although relatively high-quality lynx habitat exists on the eastern edge of Yellowstone, in the Wyoming range, and the northern Wind River Range, lynx are still extremely rare in Wyoming.

Which of the following variables are believed to strongly influence distribution and abundance of the Canada lynx?

9 / 9

The hardy, Black-capped Chickadee can withstand extremely cold temperatures and is one of two, resident Chickadee species which spends the winter in Jackson Hole.

True or False, Chickadees can expand the part of their brains known as the hippocampus by 30% to better remember where they stored their food!

Your score is

The average score is 57%


Carcass Survey Addresses Impacts of Roads on Wildlife

Carcass Survey Addresses Impacts of Roads on Wildlife

Dear friends of wildlife,

You can help the Wyoming Game & Fish Department (WGFD) and wildlife conservation groups better understand winter mortality of deer by participating in a half-day citizen survey on Saturday, April 29 from 8:30 a.m. – noon. WGFD will lead a carcass survey, along with representatives from Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, which will include the South Highway 89 corridor from Hoback Junction to the Jackson town limit.

We all know that this past winter has been a bad one for our wildlife. The data we collect will contribute to WGFD and conservation groups management of these wildlife herds. No experience in carcass surveying is needed! Agency professionals from WGFD will show you what to look for and how to conduct routine but important assessments.

We’ll meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Hoback Junction carpool lot near Hoback Market, discuss the day’s plan, the science underlying the survey, and volunteer roles while enjoying donuts and coffee. We’ll do our survey and return around noon. Some folks may gather for lunch thereafter.

Learn about and participate in wildlife science!

Volunteers are encouraged to take part in carcass assessments by extracting teeth and assessing bones with guidance from wildlife professionals. Please bring a stout knife and/or a saw if you’d like to participate in this aspect of the survey.

We will provide: Safety vests, data sheets, rubber gloves for handling carcasses (optional), packets for tooth samples, donuts and coffee, fun!

Volunteer notes

Please dress warm, appropriate for the conditions with boots, layers, sunscreen, etc. and bring a water bottle any other personal essentials in a small backpack.

Each volunteer is free to contribute for as long as they like, covering as much ground as is comfortable. We will break into teams assigned to various sections of different sizes to accommodate everyone. Volunteers will survey land within the highway’s right of way – generally well marked by a fence, but we’ll provide instruction on minimizing any safety risks.

Carpooling is encouraged, so if you do not have transportation or would prefer not to drive, we would still love to have you join us!

If you’d like to join us in this scientific survey, please email Jon Mobeck at by Tuesday, April 25 so we can assign territories prior to the survey day.

We look forward to seeing you on April 29!

Wildlife Friendlier Fencing Public Project Dates Posted

Wildlife Friendlier Fencing Public Project Dates Posted

Greg and volunteers

The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation has released dates for its public fence projects in 2016 after a winter and spring of project coordination and site reconnaissance. The Wildlife Friendlier Fencing program reduces dangerous and challenging barriers to wildlife movement. Public projects offer volunteers the opportunity to contribute to the removal or modification of fences that pose avoidable threats to wildlife while fragmenting vital habitat. JHWF and its “Fence Team” leaders also work on a number of private projects with landowners throughout the summer toward the same end.

Public fence projects typically occur on Saturdays and span from 9am – 2pm with a lunch break. On some projects, half-day “shifts” are possible. While listed dates are subject to change or cancellation due to weather and other conditions, JHWF encourages volunteers to save the dates in order to ensure that all can participate as their schedule allows.

JHWF will require an RSVP from each volunteer in advance to ensure that we have the ideal number of volunteers for each project. Interested volunteers receive an email invitation and RSVP request about two weeks prior to the project date with the description, details and other logistics outlined. Please email if you are not currently receiving fence project updates and would like to, or if you have questions about volunteering.

Wildlife Friendlier Fencing Public Project Dates

June 11
June 25 
July 16 
August 6 
August 20 
September 24 
October 8  
October 22 (tentative) 

Celebrate Wildlife!

Enjoy monthly updates from JHWF and join us in creating a more wildlife-friendly community!

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