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Top Ten Ways to Conserve Energy while Birding

By Laura Erickson
Ovenbirds are exceptionally vulnerable to window collisions, by day and by night. Turning lights out on migration nights saves energy and helps nocturnal migrants. Photo courtesy USFWS.

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  1. Buy less “stuff” from overseas. Much of the merchandise sold in American stores, including a lot of birding clothing and equipment, were shipped here in container ships burning highly polluting bunker oil. (See “Acoustic Smog and Whales“.) When you can, choose used or locally-produced items.
  2. Limit birding in SUVs to terrain that requires a rugged vehicle. Most good birding spots are easily accessible in small cars. When you buy a new vehicle, do a cost comparison to find out if a small, economical car will save enough money to allow you to rent a larger vehicle when you need it for more rugged birding.
  3. Carpool to chase rare birds or to travel to far-flung places. Birding festivals and field trips can be an excellent way to maximize the number of birds you see per birder-mile driven.
  4. Conserve fuel. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists recommendations for driving habits to conserve fuel at
  5. Try to reduce the number of miles you drive. See Tony Croasdale’s article on birding by bicycle from this issue of BirdScope. Public transportation is sometimes another option. Remember that flying usually uses more fuel than driving.
  6. Skip the fast food when birding. Prepare meals and snacks at home ahead of time. When you do eat out, choose local restaurants, especially those that specialize in locally produced ingredients, rather than fast food. You’ll be eating healthier as well as saving energy.
  7. Skip the bottled water. Bottle your own tap water rather than purchasing bottled water, which must be transported from the bottler to the store and also uses petroleum products in manufacturing the plastic.
  8. Switch to digital photography. If you’re still using film photography, consider switching to digital. Manufacturing and transporting film, keeping it cold until use, and transporting it to a developer or transporting developing equipment and chemicals to your home are far more energy intensive than using one or a few memory cards over and over. As an added incentive, remember that film developing is a very polluting process.
  9. Conserve electricity. Plug in your computer, electronics, and battery recharging equipment on a power strip and shut off when not in use.
  10. Skip the heated birdbath. Set out a pan or sturdy plastic bowl of lukewarm water on cold mornings rather than using an electric birdbath heater. When ice forms, bring it in for the day.

Originally published in the Autumn 2009 issue of BirdScope.

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library