Birds and Chemicals Don’t Mix: Understanding the Impact




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When it comes to gardening and lawn care, it’s important to be mindful of the impact that chemicals can have on wildlife, particularly birds. Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides can harm birds in a number of ways, from killing them outright to reducing breeding success and impairing their ability to migrate.

However, there are steps you can take to minimize the harmful impact of chemicals on birds and other wildlife. Below are some guidelines to help you limit your use of chemicals and create a bird-friendly environment in your yard.

Be Tolerant

Insects are a natural part of the ecosystem and provide important food for birds, frogs, dragonflies, bats, and other wildlife. Accepting some damage from insects as a normal part of your garden can help reduce the need for chemical treatments.

In addition, insects serve as pollinators for flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Consider planting native plants, which are well-suited to the local climate and are more resistant to disease and pests, requiring less maintenance and fewer pesticides.

Target Specific Pests

Before applying any chemicals, make sure you correctly identify the problem. Spraying an insecticide on a plant that is being damaged by a fungus will not correct the problem and can kill beneficial insects.

Online resources or a local garden retailer can help you correctly identify the pest or problem and select the best treatment. If you must use a chemical, select one that targets the specific pest. Broad-spectrum pesticides will impact many species, not just the problem pest.

Choose the Least Toxic Treatment

In many cases, the problem can be treated without the use of chemicals by adjusting your care and maintenance procedures or by moving a plant to a different location. If you must use chemicals, select those that are only effective for a limited timeframe to reduce the amount of chemical in the environment.

Target Your Pesticide Use

Only apply the chemical where it is needed. Spot treat the areas where the problem exists. If spraying a flowering plant with an insecticide, spray only the leaves and avoid the flowers which attract beneficial pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Do Not Use Rat Poisons

Rodent and vole populations can be safely eliminated by using snap traps or live-catch traps baited with apple or peanut butter. Rodents or voles that eat rat poison become sick, but do not die immediately.

Predators and scavengers often eat the sick rodents resulting in secondary poisonings. Thousands of animals including hawks, owls, foxes, snakes, and even dogs and cats die each year as a result of secondary poisoning from rat poisons.

Eliminate Mosquito Breeding Areas in and Around Your Yard

Spraying for mosquitoes does little to reduce mosquito populations and can have harmful effects on birds and people. To prevent mosquito reproduction, eliminate sources of standing water, unclog gutters, aerate ponds, and change bird bath water every three days.

If you have areas of standing water that cannot be eliminated, apply a less toxic larvicide, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, to kill mosquitoes before they hatch.

Before Applying Fertilizers and Other Chemicals to Your Lawn, Have Your Soil Tested

Contact your state’s cooperative agricultural extension office for soil testing. They generally do soil testing quickly and inexpensively and can tell you exactly what your lawn needs. If they determine that your lawn needs fertilizer, use a slow-release fertilizer, preferably in the autumn, since this will maintain a more natural soil chemistry and can help prevent pest outbreaks.

Minimize or Move to Eliminate Your Use of Lawn Chemicals

Applying several inches of mulch around plants is a safe and effective method for reducing weeds. Lawn and garden chemicals can enter nearby streams and waterways, killing aquatic vegetation and impacting stream ecology.

Always Follow the Directions Carefully

When applying a lawn or garden chemical, always read the label carefully and apply the minimum amount required. Avoid using chemicals near areas where birds feed, bathe, or rest. Remove or cover bird baths, bird feeders, bird houses, and butterfly houses before applying chemicals. Excess application of chemicals may result in runoff into local waterways.

Dispose of the Chemical Containers Safely

Follow the directions on the product label for proper disposal of all chemical containers and for proper cleaning of equipment. Never dump excess chemicals into storm drains.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Method Cleaners Safe to Use Around Your Feathered Friends?

Method cleaners are generally safe to use around your feathered friends, but it’s always best to exercise caution. Method is a brand that prides itself on using natural, plant-based ingredients in their cleaning products. However, it’s important to note that some Method products may contain essential oils that can be harmful to birds. Always read the label and avoid using any product that contains ingredients that are known to be toxic to birds.

Is Fabuloso a Bird-Friendly Cleaning Product?

Fabuloso is not a bird-friendly cleaning product. It contains a number of chemicals that can be toxic to birds, including ammonia and sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate. These chemicals can cause respiratory issues, eye irritation, and even death in birds. It’s best to avoid using Fabuloso or any other cleaning product that contains harsh chemicals around your feathered friends.

What Scents Can Be Harmful to Birds?

Birds have a highly sensitive respiratory system, so it’s important to avoid using any scents that can be harmful to them. Some scents that can be harmful to birds include:

  • Pine and cedar oils
  • Citrus oils
  • Lavender and eucalyptus oils
  • Candles and air fresheners that contain synthetic fragrances

What Are Some Bird-Safe Cleaning Products?

There are a number of bird-safe cleaning products available on the market. Some examples include:

  • Vinegar and water solution
  • Baking soda and water solution
  • Non-toxic, plant-based cleaners
  • Mild dish soap and water solution

What Common Household Items Can Be Deadly to Birds?

There are a number of common household items that can be deadly to birds. Some examples include:

  • Teflon and other non-stick cookware
  • Aerosol sprays, such as air fresheners and cooking sprays
  • Cleaning products that contain harsh chemicals
  • Insecticides and pesticides

Which Insecticides Are Safe to Use Around Birds?

It’s always best to avoid using insecticides around birds, as they can be harmful to their respiratory systems. If you must use an insecticide, choose one that is specifically labeled as safe for use around birds. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and keep your feathered friends out of the area until the product has dried and the area has been thoroughly ventilated.

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