Sometimes conservation issues seem too big for one person to tackle. However, some of the greatest success stories started with a single individual and a passion for doing good. SCVAS owes its success to the many volunteers who demonstrate such a passion, and we encourage others to show the same dedication to the environment around them. On this page you'll find information on what you can do to help local birds and wildlife.
If you find what you think is an orphaned baby bird DO NOT PICK IT UP unless it is in immediate danger or looks very young with no feathers. Some fledgling birds spend time on the ground and are unable to fly but are still being cared for by their parents. It would be a shame to take them away from their parents. Instead, station someone a short distance away to watch and protect the bird while you reference the information at Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley or contact the appropriate wildlife rescue organization listed below.
If you find an injured bird and can safely pick it up without injury to yourself, place it in a closed cardboard box and put the box in a warm, quiet place. Then, reference the information at Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley or contact the appropriate wildlife rescue organization listed below.
For other animals besides birds, check the information at Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley or contact the appropriate wildlife rescue organization listed below.
Wildlife Rescue Organizations
Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley (408) 929-9453. Serving Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Campbell, Saratoga, Santa Clara, or San Jose.
Peninsula Humane Society (650) 340-7022, extension 314. Serving San Mateo County and Palo Alto. Note: they have recently merged with Wildlife Rescue in Palo Alto.
Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center (408) 779-9372. Serving Santa Clara County south of San Jose, or in San Benito County.
Native Animal Rescue (831) 462-0726. Serving Santa Cruz County.
Lindsay Museum (925) 935-1978. Serving the East Bay.
SPCA for Monterey County (831) 372-7466. Serving Monterey.
An article written by our Executive Director, Ralph Schardt, featured in the March-April 2017 Avocet issue
In the early 1900s loss of wetlands due to agricultural growth was beginning to take a toll on the ducks that migrated, lived and bred in wetland habitats. On top of that, over-hunting was depleting many species of waterfowl to dangerous levels - Wood Ducks alone were on the verge of extinction. In response to this disturbing trend, several federal acts were passed between 1901 and the mid 1930s to stop over-hunting and to better protect waterfowl and wetland habitats.
In 1934, Congress passed the “Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act,” commonly known as the “Duck Stamp Act.” This program’s effectiveness was due to its simple process of enforcement - anyone over the age of sixteen that carried a hunting license had to purchase a Duck Stamp and 98% of the proceeds from this stamp went to protecting wetlands and setting aside acreage for the National Wildlife Refuge system. I could go into the specific numbers of bird species saved and acres of wetlands created due to the stamp’s revenue, but most crucial is the fact that the purchase of these stamps is currently waning. A number of recent articles have shown the numbers of duck hunters decreasing across the nation – fewer duck hunters means fewer stamps purchased.
However, the good news is that birding is leading duck hunting as a sport. Duck hunter numbers are down to approximately 2.5 million, the lowest rate in decades, while statistics show that over 46 million people across the country are avid birders. As a result of this dramatic trend, many organizations are encouraging birders, wildlife photographers, and other outdoor enthusiasts to buy a Federal Duck Stamp/Junior Duck Stamp to support conservation of waterfowl and secure wetland safety for the future. Duck Stamps are currently $25 and will give you free entry to any National Wildlife Refuge that charges an entry fee. See how you can make a difference!
Bird Sanctuary Program
• Bird Sanctuary Program - Learn how to create a healthy backyard habitat that is safe for people and pets, plus attractive to birds and other wildlife.
• Make Your Home Safe For Birds Brochure - Help reduce window strikes around your home with these simple measures
• Tree maintenance guide - City workers and home-owners trim, prune and clear brush in their outdoor spaces, sometimes in the spring and summer when birds are nesting. Read this guide to learn about the best time for tree maintenance for both wildlife and tree health.
• Protecting Birds from Rodenticides - Calling on governments, businesses, and home-owners to voluntarily cease use of specific rodenticide products deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency to pose "unreasonable" risks to humans, pets, wildlife and the environment.
• Bird-Friendly California Plant Guide - Make your yard more bird-friendly with beneficial California native plants.
• Live outside of California? Search the Audubon Native Plant Database below for native plants in your area.
Bird Houses and Feeders
• All About Backyard Nest Boxes - Information on hanging a nest box in your yard to attract chickadees, titmice, and other cavity nesters.
• Nest Box Plans - Buy a nest box in our Nature Shop or learn how to build your own using the plans and details from our Cavity Nesters Recovery Program (CNRP).
• Stocking the Pantry (by Lee Pauser) - Help your local birds by providing them with sustenance to survive.
• All About Bird Feeders - Information on bird feeders - what type is best, where to place them, what seed to use and most importantly how to keep them clean.
• The SCVAS Nature Shop has a wide selection of feeders and seed, and can help you make the right choice.
Learn about the birds in your backyard
• Take one of our classes to learn more about the birds in your yard.
• Participate in the nationwide Great Backyard Bird Count and Project Feeder Watch as part of our citizen science programs to provide scientists with valuable information.
Domestic cats can make fantastic pets, but as skilled hunters with strong natural instincts, they are also ruthlessly efficient predators. While the natural ecosystems of the Santa Clara Valley have been balanced through natural processes over millions of years, recent human impact has thrown this fragile ecosystem off balance, and domestic housecats are at the forefront of the problem. As non-native and invasive species, introducing cats to the South Bay has had a devastating impact on local wildlife, especially birds. In the US alone, domestic cats kill 2.4 billion birds per year, making cat predation by far the greatest human-caused threat to avian life. Globally, domestic cats are considered primarily responsible for the extinction of 33 bird species and are thought to have contributed to the extinction of at least an additional 30 species over the past 500 years.
Local Threats to Bird Life (and Other Small Creatures)
Locally, outdoor cats pose a threat to resident year-round birds as well as numerous migrating birds that stop along the San Francisco Bay. Whether it is a Pine Siskin passing through or a House Finch nesting locally, introducing a keen predator into the mix has deadly consequences for birds in the Santa Clara Valley. The Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, which lines the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay in Santa Clara County, is home to the Ridgeway Rail (formerly California Clapper Rail), one of California’s most endangered birds that, if not for the Refuge’s concerted efforts to control non-native predator populations, would be extinct. But the Ridgeway Rail is just one of the hundreds of species devastated by free-roaming cats around the Bay Area. And like the Ridgeway Rail, many Bay Area species nest on the ground, making them especially vulnerable to predation. Seeing that cats are a major threat to wildlife on both global and local levels, it is evident that responsible cat ownership is central to securing a safe environment for our pets and the surrounding wildlife.
Responsible Cat Ownership
Imagine the Rufous Hummingbird - which weighs less than one teaspoon of sugar but migrates an astonishing 3,900 miles from Alaska to Mexico - having his journey stopped short because a cat owner decided to allow their pet outdoors. Responsible cat ownership is not only about understanding your pet, but understanding the part your pet plays in the natural world. When a cat brings home a trophy kill for its owner, it is not the cat’s fault but the owner’s, and because cats are non-native invasive species, there is nothing ‘natural’ about it. Being a cat owner is a big joy, but it is also a big responsibility, and understanding the footprint an outdoor cat leaves on the local environment is vital to being a responsible cat owner.
Bird and Cat Safety Go Hand-in-Hand
Even if you feel your cat is a pacifist, you are probably being deceived. Most cats leave the vast majority of their kills at the site of the killing so their owners never see the carnage. And even if your cat is in the tiny percentage of cats that do not kill birds, its presence outdoors still has an impact on them. Birds that are aware of free-roaming cats alter their behavior in ways that halve their offspring’s chance of survival. Considering that the average outdoor cat has a roaming range of 325 acres, just one cat can affect the behavior and end the lives of countless birds. Here in the South Bay, it is likely that your cat’s range includes several blocks, meaning that he is also putting himself at risk by regularly crossing city streets. The Humane Society estimates the average life expectancy of free-roaming pets to be between three and five years, while indoor cats often reach seventeen years of age. Luckily, being a responsible cat owner is fairly simple – keep your cat indoors. Keeping cats indoors may not only save the lives of thousands of creatures, but may also save your cat’s life.
Happy Indoor Cats
Many cat owners believe that keeping their cats indoors might decrease their cat’s quality of life. However, animal behaviorists and other experts reject that misconception, as indoor cats can have a fulfilling life while remaining healthier and safer than outdoor cats. In fact, cats are surprisingly adaptable, and with a little effort from their caregivers can develop a rich and enjoyable indoor lifestyle while safe from the perils of the outdoor world. Due to a combination of motor vehicles, diseases, encounters with other animals, and other factors, the average lifespan of an indoor cat is over three times that of an outdoor cat. Locally, the Santa Clara Valley Humane Society reports that over half of the animals found dead on San Jose streets are cats. Keeping your cat indoors will also save you money, as you’ll be less likely to pay for emergency veterinary care, treatment for diseases and parasites transmitted from other animals, and flea medicine. If you are intent on keeping your cat outdoors, then avoid attracting birds to your yard (please no bird feeders, birdhouses, or birdbaths). Still, no measures you take on an outdoor cat can come close to the life-saving effectiveness of keeping that cat indoors.
Transitioning Your Outdoor Cat to an Indoor Cat
If you are interested in converting your cat to an indoor lifestyle, consider these tips:
- • Build a cat patio. If you are concerned your cat will miss the outdoors, consider constructing a simple cat patio, or “catio.” These fenced-in structures give cats an enriching outdoor experience while keeping the cat and local wildlife safe from each other.
- • Play with your cat. Keeping your cat mentally and physically active is crucial to their happiness. There are a wide variety of toys available for indoor cats that can be fun for both you and your cat, enriching their life as well as your relationship with them.
- • Create a window shelf. Cats enjoy seeing the goings-on of the outdoor world from the safety of indoors, so make sure your cat has easy access to windows.
- • Clean the litter box. Cats can be sensitive to foul smells, so clean your cat’s litter box regularly.
- • Spay or neuter your cat at a young age. Cats can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks. This is a good idea for most owners because it reduces the risk of unwanted kittens, and can lower the cat’s risk of certain types of cancer.
- • Keep your cat identifiable. Cats can slip through open windows and cracked doors with ease, so keep your cat collared and attach identification tags. You may also want to microchip your cat as a backup measure.
It works! We swear! For a personal testimony of keeping cats indoors, read Linda Beth Gray's story.