It’s take-off time for the #MagnificentBlackcap! This week, this 21-gram songbird is taking off from Europe and migrating to its Mediterranean wintering grounds. So how can we care for these birds in preparation for their epic and often perilous migratory journey?
Keeping common birds common is the ultimate goal of nature conservation. The more endangered a species becomes, the harder it gets to pull it back from the brink of extinction. So it’s best to make sure it doesn’t decline in the first place. The Eurasian Blackcap is neither rare nor endangered, but it’s important that we work hard to keep it that way – because there are some who would rather see these beautiful birds on a plate than flying across the sky.
In Cyprus, some restaurants still secretly serve ambellapoulia, a dish of illegally caught wild songbirds including blackcaps. As they migrate through the country, poachers catch millions of birds in vast mist-nets, or on sticks coated with glue. Not only are these traps torturous and painful, but they also catch rarer birds with declining populations who really cannot afford this additional threat. BirdLife Cyprus is working tirelessly to end this devastating practice – but other countries can also help to keep the blackcap common.
That’s why in the Netherlands, our Partner Vogelbescherming is working hard to protect woodlands, parks, nature reserves and even gardens where this beloved bird can thrive. You too can wake up to the sound of the blackcap’s beautiful trilling soprano – you just need to follow some simple steps.
Firstly, make sure there are enough insects for blackcaps to feed their chicks. How? By never, ever using pesticide in your garden. The packaging may suggest that it is relatively harmless, but it is not. To attract even more insects, let your flower beds thrive. If there are a lot of hard surfaces such as decks or patios in your garden, consider pulling some of them up and replacing them with native shrubs and flowers that local insects love. Let a native tree grow old. Provide a pond or birdbath to drink from, keep the cat indoors, and you’ll be a proper Blackcap hero. Blackcaps often collide with windows, causing injury or worse, but there are many ways you can make your windows visible to them!
Simple actions like these have proven to be effective. Some German blackcaps are now choosing to winter in the UK, probably because so many British bird lovers are keeping their bird feeders stocked throughout the winter. This shows that everyday actions can make a difference.