The Audubon Observer, November 2019


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As reported in our last issue, a recent study of bird populations in North America published in the journal Science revealed that nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds are alive today compared to avian abundance in 1970, a loss of 29%! In addition, Audubon's new report, Survival by Degrees, estimates that two-thirds of North American birds (389 species) are at increasing risk of extinction from global temperature rise.

201904 Sweetwater SNKI Shane CarrollIn the face of these threats it's easy to lose hope, but we want to focus on what we as individuals, families, and communities can do to turn these trends around. In the past, some species have been nearly eliminated by hunting or pesticides, yet conservation measures (like eliminating DDT) helped these populations to recover, so we still have a chance to bring birds back from the brink!

Here are twelve things YOU can do to give birds a better chance of survival:

  1. Vote for candidates who place environmental issues front and center. Public policy has a huge impact on survival of the bird species we love.
  2. Eliminate single use plastics, especially straws, plastic bags, and balloons. Plastic pollution 20180113 092540These items can end up in our waterways where they can be mistaken for food by birds, fish, and sea turtles, often killing them. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Refuse straws and bring your own take-out containers when dining out. Dispose of cigarette butts properly - butts are the most common trash found on the beaches during cleanups, and the filters contain plastic. (Another reason to quit smoking.)
  3. Keep cats indoors - they will live longer and healthier lives. Support measures to eliminate feral cat colonies over time. There are 60-100 million free-ranging cats in the US, and they are non-native predators against which our wild birds have no natural defenses. It is estimated that cats kill 1 billion birds and 6 billion mammals each year in the US alone. Outdoor cats typically have a very short life span and can transmit diseases to humans and wildlife. We support American Bird Conservancy's "Cats Indoors!" program.
  4. For a rodent problem, use traps instead of rat poison, many forms of which move up the food chain to also kill eagles, hawks, and owls, which eat rodents.
  5. Swear off herbicides and pesticides and reduce or eliminate fertilizer use in your yard. A chemical-free yard provides safe food sources for birds and other pollinators. Organic farms provide the same benefits on an agricultural scale. Pesticides containing neonicotinoids are directly responsible for the disastrous decline of bees, monarch butterflies, and other beneficial insects. We are joined by other organizations including the Garden Club of America, St. Johns Riverkeeper, and the Florida Wildflower Foundation in opposing the use of them.
  6. Plant fruit and nut bearing trees and berry producing shrubs. Plant native plants in your yard - another excellent food source for birds and pollinators. An easy way to learn what will work in our yards here in northeast Florida is to use Audubon's Plants for Birds website. Go to the native plants database and type in your zip code, and you will get a list of plants for our area, including pictures for easy identification.
  7. Maintain a brush pile so birds have a place to hide from predators.
  8. If you can do it safely, let dead trees stand as nesting sites for cavity nesting birds such as woodpeckers. They are also a source of insects which provide protein for birds.
  9. Keep fresh water readily available. In a drought, it’s easier for birds to find food than water.
  10. Reduce deadly bird collisions with glass by keeping screens up year-round. Or, install feather guards which interrupt reflections. Window decals to reduce bird strikes are also available from several vendors, including Wild Birds Unlimited.
  11. Enroll your company in Audubon’s Lights Out Program, which promotes safe migration for birds through urban areas by taking actions such as turning off outside lights on tall buildings and using window shades during nighttime work. There are currently 30 cities participating in this program throughout the US already and we hope to add Jacksonville to that list soon. At this time there are no cities in Florida that participate in this program and we would like to be the first.
  12. Buy shade grown, bird-friendly coffee. Not only will you be helping small farmers in South and Central America use good growing practices but you will also help our bird species that migrate there in the winter. It is easily obtainable online and several local retailers carry it as well. Ask your local coffee shop to stock it.

If everyone would do at least one of these things now, such as bring your own reusable bags when shopping, keep your cat indoors, stop using chemicals on your lawn, or stop using plastic straws, we can have a positive impact on the survival of the birds we love. Doing nothing guarantees that nothing will change.


To help you create bird friendly habitat in your landscape, we are sharing a native plant every month that is beneficial to birds and pollinators.

This month's plant is:

Spanish Needle or Common Beggar’s Tick (Bidens Alba)

Spanish Needle IMG 20190831 082303To most gardeners in the United States, this plant is a pesky weed – invasive, ugly and something to be uprooted immediately. But to butterflies and bees, it is the most attractive plant in the garden. In Florida, it is one of the top three nectar-producing plants and therefore beloved by bees and beekeepers alike! It lures multitudes of butterflies, including: Julias, Ruddy dagger-wings, Monarchs , American Painted Ladies, Common Buckeyes. It is the host plant for the Dainty Sulphur butterfly.

In other parts of the world where it grows, including Africa, South America, Jamaica, and Asia, it is beloved and used to make herbal tea. It has multiple other uses as well. The plant alleviates rashes, itching, and other skin issues. The leaves can be crushed to produce a sap used on cuts to aid in blood clotting. The leaves can be cooked like collards, while the raw flower petals make a beautiful salad topping. Please note that if you are going to experiment with eating it, please make sure it has not come from an area sprayed with pesticides or herbicides (which shouldn’t be used anyway if you want to attract bees and butterflies).

Spanish Needle grows to a height of 2-3 feet in full sun but will grow in partially shaded sites as well. The flowers are aster like with several ½” white rays and yellow centers, blooming all year. You can easily grow it from seed since one plant can produce 3,000 to 6,000 seeds that are dispersed by wind and water but most often become attached to fur or clothing. However, if you have it in your garden or yard already, please leave it there and enjoy an inexpensive way to attract bees and butterflies or something for your salad!

For additional information on native plants for birds, check out Audubon's excellent Plants for Birds website:

For local sources of native plants, check with the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant SocietyThey often have native plants as well as cuttings available at their monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. Check out their Events Calendar for all of their upcoming activities.

--Jody Willis, President, Duval Audubon Society


Board member Carol Bailey-White recently returned from her THIRD camp session at Audubon's Hog Island Camp in Maine. Carol first attended a  session ("Joy of Birding") at Hog Island with several other Duval Audubon Society board members during the summer of 2015, and liked it so much that she returned the following year on her own for the "Arts and Birding" program, featuring as an instructor the world-renowned wildlife and nature photographer Melissa Groo.

Hog Island 201909 CBW and ScottWCarol's most recent Hog Island Camp experience was "Living on the Wind: Fall Migration and Monhegan Island," which was led by author and naturalist Scott Weidensaul (at right, with Carol), who has written more than two dozen books on natural history, is a contributing editor for Audubon magazine, a columnist for Bird Watcher's Digest, and has written for dozens of other publications. Scott's co-instructors were environmental educator and photographer Holly Merker and self-proclaimed "tech geek" Drew Weber, who works on the team that developed Cornell Lab of Ornithology's innovative eBird and Merlin Bird ID apps for birders.

Monhegan Island 201909ALL of the instructors were spectacular, and SO generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise with the campers. The session featured a fabulous overnight stay on Monhegan Island, one of the best migrant traps in the Northeast. Monhegan is renowned for its excellent birding opportunities, rocky coastline (left), and lobstering, and has been a famous destination for artists for over 100 years.

A typical day at the Hog Island Camp starts with early birding at 5:30 am, breakfast at 7:30, and birding field trips in the morning and afternoon. Campers enjoy a delicious dinner every evening featuring locally-sourced meats, seafood, and produce, and vegan and other special dietary options are always available. Top-notch presentations by the instructors as well as guest lecturers round out the evening. Accommodations are basic (it IS camp, after all) but comfortable, and the dedicated volunteer staff work hard to make sure every camper's needs are met.

Hog Island's history is as fascinating as its wonderful camp sessions. Once home to the Abenaki people who fished its clam-rich waters, this mid-coast Maine island purchased in the late 1600s by European settlers was named, like many islands off the coast of New England, for the livestock that roamed its New World pastures. It remains "Hog Island" to this day.

Hog Island Todd Bingham Cottage 201506The island’s evolution beyond agriculture and timbering began in 1908 with a visit by Dr. David Todd and his wife, Mabel Loomis Todd. Concerned by haphazard logging and overgrazing in the region, Mrs. Todd negotiated with landowners to purchase and conserve much of Hog Island. The Todds built a bungalow (right) within the island’s forest, and Mabel’s daughter Millicent spent many summers exploring its spruce-fir forests and abundant tidal pools.

Millicent Todd Bingham inherited the island upon the death of her mother in 1932. Determined to conserve it, she partnered with the National Audubon Society in 1935. John Hopkinson Baker, then Audubon’s executive director, had been searching for a site of ornithological significance where Audubon could protect birds and launch the organization’s first educational camp. Hog Island was an ideal match for his plan.

Hog Island Queen Mary 201909Since 1936, residential sessions at Hog Island have been led by some of the most respected naturalists and environmental educators in the nation, inspiring scores of scientists, school and university educators, and conservation leaders. Camp sessions are held every summer from May through September, and include special sessions for educators, families, and teens, as well as many programs for adult campers. A full listing of the 2020 offerings is available at, and registration for next summer's sessions is now open!

Hog Island is a special (and spectacularly beautiful) place, and a unique experience for anyone interested in improving their birding expertise and truly "connecting with nature." 

2018/2019 YEAR IN REVIEW

youtube social square redDid you know we have a YouTube channel?? Check out our latest "Year in Review" video to see all the fun we had last season. And join us this year - everyone is welcome!


20191013 111401 Beginning Bird Walk Ft Caroline CBWOur 2019/2020 season continues this month with more exciting activities. Please join us for one (or more) of our upcoming field trips or programs.

Please always check our website for any last-minute changes before heading out the door, just in case something has come up. We hope to see you soon!

Duval Audubon Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 16304
Jacksonville, FL 32245

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