Urban Birds vs. Big City Dangers: How We Can Help

Urban birds face many urban dangers. How we can help.

Across the globe, birds face many perils that threaten their survival. It’s not surprising that human behaviors cause many of the dangers that menace our avian friends. And New York City is a microcosm of the global threat to avian populations.

We recently spoke with Denise Kelly, founder and president of the Avian Welfare Coalition, about some of the most serious hazards facing the myriad species of birds who dwell in New York City or pass through our airways on their annual migratory journeys. While not an all-inclusive list, Denise identified four particularly hazardous conditions that urban birds must navigate in the big city, and solutions that New Yorkers can take to mitigate the risks.

Bright Lights, Big City

Millions of birds are injured or killed each year as a result of collisions with tall buildings and glass structures during peak bird migration periods. Many species of birds rely on constellations to help them navigate their flight paths. Excessive outdoor lighting, especially in and around urban centers, can cause birds to become disoriented and collide with buildings and other glass structures in their path. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 500 million to a billion birds perish each year in the U.S. as a result of these collisions.

In December 2021, the New York City Council followed the lead of numerous communities across the country by passing Intros 271 and 274 – critical “Lights Out” legislation aimed at reducing light pollution and the threats created by non-essential lighting from buildings owned or leased by the City. The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, The Avian Welfare Coalition, NYC Audubon Society, Wild Bird Fund, and a host of other members of the Lights Out Coalition supported this important legislation.

Lights Out Coalition founder and chair, Kathy Nizzari, says she started the Coalition to support efforts to get the legislation passed. “Before I knew it, 26 organizations joined us – from avian societies to animal welfare organizations to environmental groups and scientific researchers. In a true showing of the power of community collaboration, we were able to get these crucial bills passed unanimously. As a result, the lives of hundreds of thousands of birds will be saved as they navigate our night skies each year, just by the simple act of turning off unnecessary lighting in City buildings.

“This year we plan to continue this campaign with legislation addressing private buildings,” Kathy continues. “If you could save a life by switching off a light you don’t need, wouldn’t you do it?”

In addition to turning off unnecessary indoor and outdoor lights and closing window shades, there are additional ways New Yorkers can do their part to help prevent bird collisions. Check out some suggestions from the Wild Bird Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Clean Up Our Act (and Our City) for Birds

No one wants to see trash and debris littering our streets and parks. But for urban birds and other wildlife, these nuisances can be deadly. Materials that are especially harmful include plastic soda can holders (those connected plastic rings known as yokes used to hold together multi-packs of canned drinks), used face masks, wire and fishing lines (often found discarded around park lakes and waterways and which can entangle birds), and discarded fish hooks that can be ingested and prove deadly to birds and other urban wildlife. 

A recent example of the dangers of carelessly tossed trash involved a duck in a Central Park lake spotted with a plastic yoke around her neck. Over the course of several days, rescuers and NYC Park Rangers braved bitter cold temperatures and frozen rocks in attempts to capture the duck to remove the plastic appendage. But the wily duck repeatedly eluded their attempts, and is still at large and at risk of injury or death should the yoke cause her to become trapped. Attempts to rescue the duck are ongoing.

While there’s no quick fix for reducing urban debris, New Yorkers and visitors to our city can reduce the risks to birds and wildlife (and create a more livable environment for everyone) by being vigilant in discarding their trash. For example, a simple way to ensure a plastic yoke doesn’t become a death trap for a wild creature is to cut the plastic rings before discarding it, preferable in an appropriate trash receptacle. 

The problem of discarded trash that can be hazardous to birds and other animals is rampant, but is also underreported,” says Denise. “Just take a good look in the wooded areas of the city’s parks and surrounding waterways to see how much more needs to be done to clear the debris for the benefit of animals and humans. Ultimately, it’s up to New Yorkers and visitors to dispose of their trash responsibly.”

To combat the crisis of urban debris in New York City, NYC government, community groups, and civic organizations can sponsor cleanup projects, such as designated “Spring Cleanup Days” in city parks and other target areas, to collect and dispose of trash – especially in areas where birds and other wildlife frequent. To learn about ways you can get involved, visit the NYC Parks website or the NYC Department of Sanitation website.

Slow Down for Birds

The sight of an injured or dead pigeon in a gutter, bike lane, or on the street is distressing. But it’s not at all uncommon in New York City. Fast moving vehicles are responsible for countless injuries to birds, not to mention being a hazard to people. To avoid these deadly encounters, drivers, cyclists, motor bikers, and skateboarders need to obey, (and face fines for violating) traffic laws, and reduce their speed when they see a bird in their path. In less densely populated areas of the city and beyond, they need to be mindful of wildlife crossings. 

If you discover an injured bird, don’t just walk away. Read about what you can do to help on the Wild Bird Fund website.

Report Birds Kept Illegally 

Earlier this month, NYCLASS and Long Island Orchestrating for Nature rescued 17 sick and malnourished ducks and a goose from an illegal slaughter operation in Forest Hills, Queens. These mistreated birds were being kept in deadly cruel conditions outside a home, in subfreezing temperatures, with no shelter, food, or water. Fortunately, now they are receiving veterinary care, and will be placed in sanctuaries and loving homes where they will receive lifelong care.

While this heroic rescue garnered significant media attention, incidents of birds illegally kept and bred in squalid backyard operations are not as uncommon as you might think. It’s only because a neighbor reported this particular situation to animal groups that these ducks were rescued. 

All too often, captors of illegally held birds tire of having them and release them to the wild. Unfortunately, ducks and most other avian species that have lived in captivity don’t have the skills to survive in the wild. They never learned to forage for food or escape predators and other dangers, and they usually suffer horrific deaths.

In New York City, it is against the law to keep certain bird species. These include roosters, ducks, geese, turkeys, eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, vultures, emus, ostriches, and other large or predatory birds. 

If you see animals suffering, never be silent. To report an illegal animal being kept as a pet or for any other purpose, call 311 or report the situation online at NYC311.

Resources to Learn More About Protecting Birds and Wildlife

The Wild Bird Fund

The Avian Welfare Coalition

They All Want to Live

NYC Audubon

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Holiday Wishes from the Mayor’s Alliance

Here we are, a year further along in the pandemic, and yes, some things have changed for the better. Yet many challenges remain. Having adapted to the ups and downs of the ongoing crisis, the Alliance has continued to strive to be a consistent and reliable source of information and guidance for New York City pet owners.

This year we responded to hundreds of requests for information about low-cost spay/neuter services. Finding a source for free or low-cost spay/neuter has continued to be a challenge because of COVID-related program changes at non-profits that offer the surgeries. Similarly, waitlists for veterinary care at most facilities that serve lower-income pet owners have become the norm. 

Through our information phone line, emails, and our website, the Alliance has helped hundreds of pet owners connect with service providers they need to care for their pets. And we applaud our non-profit colleagues and partners for attempting to keep affordable spay/neuter and other vet care available, albeit less than pre-pandemic levels.

The Alliance continued in 2021 to evolve and define our role as a capacity-builder, a connector, and a hub for NYC animal welfare. In addition to connecting pet owners with resources for medical care, we guided them toward sources of pet food, legal assistance, and surrender prevention programs. We delivered donations of pet food and pet supplies to shelters, rescue groups, and pet owners. 

We continued to serve with our valued partners on the Animal Planning Task Force at NYC’s Emergency Management. As one of the APTF’s original members, we continued to work with our colleagues to seek and institute solutions to the challenges imposed upon pets and their people by the evolving health crisis and other adverse circumstances. 

We advocated for animal friendly legislation by testifying before City Council. Just last week, our efforts in concert with our partners in the Lights Out Coalition helped to gain a victory for migratory birds with the passage of legislation that will reduce light pollution in New York City and save the lives of thousands of birds each year.

Our successes this year have only been possible because of our wonderful supporters who believe in our work and share our commitment to New York City’s animals. Since our founding in 2003, private support has fueled our success, as the Alliance receives no government funding. 

As we draw to the close of 2021 and look ahead to the promises of a new year, we invite you to join our efforts to make New York City a better community for companion animals, homeless animals, community cats, and the people who care about them. 

To our friends, supporters, and animal lovers in NYC and beyond, thank you for all you do for the animals. The Alliance staff wishes you, your family and friends peace, good health, and happiness in the new year.

Posted in Bunnies and Beyond, Cats, Dogs, Fundraising, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Three Good Reasons to Adopt A Little New Yorker Today®!

Three Good Reasons to Adopt A Little New Yorker Today®!

1. November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month.

Although any time of the year is a good time to open your home to a senior pet, National Senior Pet Month might be a particularly good time because it’s the month of Thanksgiving. And what could make an older dog, cat, or rabbit waiting in a shelter more thankful than to be welcomed into a new home?

Sadly, many senior pets are waiting in shelters for a loving home. And while shelter life can be hard on any animal, it can take a greater toll on seniors, who might have spent their entire life with a loving owner who died or, because of health or financial circumstances, no longer can care for their loyal companion. These older animals, who still have so much life and love to share, often are overlooked by adopters hoping to adopt a puppy or kitten.

But making a case for adopting an older pet is easy! For starters, senior pets are likely to be more mellow and relaxed than youngsters. Their personalities are fully developed, so you generally know exactly who you’re bringing home with a senior pet. Older pets generally are more adaptable to their new home. They can be great stress relievers, enjoying leisurely walks and gentle play. And they usually demand far less attention than a puppy or kitten, adapting to their new owner’s lifestyle instead of the other way around.

So if you’re considering adopting, do yourself (and some lucky older pet) a favor and consider adopting a senior. If you’re not looking to adopt but want to do something positive for senior pets, you might consider supporting the Grey Muzzle Organization. This organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other non-profit groups nationwide.

2. Give a Shelter Pet a Home for the Holidays.

With the holiday season just around the corner, you have the opportunity to give the greatest gift of all – a loving home! – to a rescue dog, cat, or rabbit. For many households, the holidays provide an ideal time to introduce a new member to the family. The kids are home from school, parents often have more time off from work, and with more people working from home these days, a newly adopted pet can get lots of attention to help acclimate to a new home.

Whenever you plan to adopt, be sure you include the whole family in the decision. Ideally, take the kids and any other members of the household who will be involved in your new pet’s care when you go to meet your new family member. While surprising a spouse or child with a new pet might sound like a good idea, it’s not! For everyone’s sake, including the new pet, you’ll want to make sure everyone in the household is on board with the decision and prepared to give your new pet the best and most devoted family possible.

If the holidays aren’t the right time for you to adopt, you can always wait until after the first of the year, when life for some people settles down after a hectic holiday. A gift certificate from a shelter or rescue group can make a wonderful gift, followed by a family visit to the shelter after the holidays to meet all the great animals awaiting new homes.

3. Adopting a Pet is a Win-Win Proposition.

We’ve been through a punishing pandemic. We’re not across the finishing line yet. And if you’ve made it this far without the comfort and companionship of a furry, four-footed friend, then you deserve to reward yourself. You’ve probably heard the term “pandemic pets,” referring to the pets people acquired during times of isolation and stress over the past 18 months. Companion animals can shine a light in our lives during the darkest of times. When we make the lifetime commitment to adopt a homeless pet, we can reciprocate by shining a light into their life. The result? We both enjoy a brighter future!

Read more about adopting a pet.

Locate a shelter or rescue group in the New York City area. 

Not ready to adopt? Then consider fostering a pet instead.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we offer our sincere thanks to the thousands of people who have heeded our call to Adopt A Little New Yorker Today®, and to our many supporters who have helped sustain us in our mission to make New York City a better place for animals. We invite you to support our efforts as we continue to work to improve the lives of NYC’s animals and the people who care for them.

Posted in Cats, Dogs, Pet Adoption, Pet Fostering, Rabbits | Tagged , , , , ,

Global Cat Day 2021: Killing Cats is Not the Answer

Cats worldwide are under attack. Governments and lawmakers continue to enact legislation that supports animal control practices that trap and kill thousands of cats around the globe.

Last week on Global Cat Day 2021,  Becky Robinson, Alley Cat Allies’ President and Founder, and a globally recognized defender of cats, called for an end to the killing of cats, and a shift to the sustainable, nonlethal neutering and returning of cats to their outdoor homes.

“While many civic leaders have applied scientifically-proven, humane and nonlethal approaches for managing cats, it is urgent for all municipalities to embrace this successful model,” says Becky. Her message on Global Cat Day is a call to action for compassionate approaches for cats and all animals around the world.

To underscore that message, Alley Cat Allies produced an informative video that debuted on Global Cat Day 2021. In the video, Becky exposes flawed excuses and assumptions being used to kill cats as “immoral, cruel, and with malicious intent.” Emma Hurst, a member of the Australian Animal Justice Party and a member of the New South Wales Parliament, joined Becky in the video for a discussion that highlights the global nature of the war on cats. 

An Effective and Humane Solution: Trap-Neuter-Return 

We prioritize the sterilization of cats to benefit them and our communities. And the most effective and humane method of reducing their numbers is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

With TNR, concerned cat enthusiasts toil daily to get community cats spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their outdoor home. Here they are fed and provided medical care. Over time, the number of cats diminish through attrition. Further, friendly cats who are candidates for adoption are removed and prepared for a new life indoors. 

Long-term studies across the country show that TNR not only reduces cat populations, but also allows the cats to live out their lives healthily. What’s more, these programs save taxpayers money by reducing animal service calls and relieving the burden on shelters. And neighborhoods become quieter as mating behavior decreases. Moreover, TNR is the humane and sustainable option for managing cat populations.

Reducing the number of free-roaming cats through TNR is a part of a much larger solution for protecting our environment and the countless species with which we share our planet. Such proactive efforts, often paid for by TNR volunteers out of their own pockets, should be encouraged and emulated, not thwarted by restrictive and unrealistic laws and regulations. Their efforts not only provide a humane solution for the cats, but also benefit public health and safety. They serve as an example to our fellow citizens and lawmakers of how humans, the most powerful stewards of our planet, can take responsibility for creating a more humane and sustainable world for all species.

Posted in Feral Cats & TNR, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Are Your Pets Prepared for Hurricane Season?

Hurricane season is far from over, which creates a season that demands greater awareness and preparation for people with pets.

Hurricane Ida roared through New York City and surrounding areas just as September, aka National Preparedness Month, began. Sadly, more than 50 people were killed by the heavy rains and flooding in the Northeast, including 13 people in New York City.

Hurricane season is far from over, and threats from more deadly storms remain. Those threats, combined with lingering risks from the COVID-19 pandemic, create a potentially complicated season that demands greater awareness and preparation for everyone, including – and perhaps especially – people with pets.

To raise awareness about emergency preparedness, NYC Emergency Management held its annual Protecting One Another: Pets and Service Animal Preparedness Fair on September 9th in Union Square Park. As a member of the Animal Planning Task Force of NYC Emergency Management since 2006, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals has worked with the City of New York and numerous task force partners over the years to create and implement a comprehensive plan to keep New Yorkers and their pets safe when disaster strikes. 

We encourage you to read the informative Ready New York: My Pet’s Emergency Plan, (also available in other languages and audio format) on the NYC.gov website. You’ll find a great deal of useful information to help you:

• Make an emergency plan that includes all members of your family, including your pets;
• Provide your pets with adequate identification (including microchips for dogs and cats and licenses for dogs) to help reunite them with you should you become separated;
• Prepare a “go bag” that contains the supplies and information you’ll need to have close at hand should you and your pets need to evacuate your home; and
• Discover other helpful tips, which you might not have considered.

In the event that the City’s emergency shelter system is opened, and you cannot shelter your pets at a kennel or with friends or relatives outside the evacuation area, pets are allowed at all City evacuation centers.

Check out the Alliance’s Prepare Your Pets for Emergencies page for additional links to information from a range of emergency preparedness expert sources, including American Red Cross, American Veterinary Medical Association, ASPCA, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), RedRover, and others.

The HSUS video, Evacuate your pets safely during disasters, provides some useful preparedness tips.

Are Your Pets Microchipped?

Having your pets microchipped is one of the best ways to increase their chances of being reunited with you if you become separated. Check out our website and also the Michelson Found Animals website for important information. Read about why the most important step in microchipping your pet is to register the microchip with a microchip registry, and to update the information whenever you change your address or phone number. And when you register the microchip, it’s always a good idea to provide a secondary contact, such as a trusted friend or family member, in case you cannot be reached.

A registered microchip is extremely important as a permanent means of identifying your dog or cat. But we also recommend having a dog tag affixed to your dog’s collar that displays your current phone number. If your dog is found running loose, a Good Samaritan can quickly call you and let you know your dog has been found and make arrangements to be reunited with you.  

Posted in Microchipping, Safety/Emergency, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,