Sometimes, the realization alone that the birds that are now chirping away in our backyard had flown thousands of kilometres over land and sea before getting here, is enough to make us watch these small feathered creatures in awe and admiration.
Ιf you’ve ever wondered what you can do to help these birds whom we share our city with, here are a few quick and easy tips:
Provide water: Water is as important to birds as food, especially in Cyprus! Birds need to bathe often, as clean feathers insulate better than dirty ones and birds can’t fly with dirty feathers. The water baths need to be shallow (approx. 5cm deep) and be placed out of reach of predators (at least 2 metres away from where a predator might be hiding), such as cats. They should not have bushes or trees obscuring them as birds won’t approach for fear of being pounced on.
Provide mud: Mud is vital for nest building, especially for Swallows and House Martins. Drought can affect the breeding success of Barn Swallows and House Martins which have to travel great distances to find mud for their nest. If you have soil in your garden or outside your door, make sure to keep a small patch with wet mud, as this is a great way to help the birds have the necessary materials to build or repair their nest. Again, the more exposed this patch of mud the better, as birds won’t approach closed areas for fear of predators.
Protect existing nests: Some people think that having Barn Swallows or House Martins nesting in houses or buildings is messy and a nuisance. Instead of destroying their nests, which anyway is illegal, you can put up a small cardboard underneath to catch the droppings or if you want to support local craftsmanship you can get a traditionally-made reed base, like the one in the photo below. Call BirdLife Cyprus on 22455072 to find out more.
Place a new nest-box: Swifts are in trouble because of the destruction of nest sites they've used for years. With modern building techniques, house repairs, renovations and even demolitions removing the old cracks and crevices Swifts use, they have nowhere left to go. As Swifts return to the same nesting site year after year if their nest is destroyed they might have nowhere to go. The best is to allow for the Swifts when you make plans for a renovation (allow room for them to nest between the tiles), if you can’t, then fitting a nest box high on your house wall is the next best thing you can do to help these long-distance migrants. If you would like to build your own you can use the specifications found here.
Make your garden or balcony bird-friendly: The more species of flowering plants you have, the more animal species will feed on them and utilise them, and the more birds you will attract to your garden! Plant a tree or shrub to help birds in the future. Plant whatever suits your space, even a climbing plant in a pot on a balcony: if it can provide shelter, a nest site or produces fruit or berries, you can’t go wrong!
Put stickers on your windows: Put stickers or strips of colour or hang decorations on your windows to prevent birds from flying into your windows.
Last but not least, if you find a grounded or injured bird, please call BirdLife Cyprus on 22455072 for advice.