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7 ways to save the black rail and other birds

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Outdoor cats kill lots of native wildlife. File/Matthew Fortner/Staff

Without action, the eastern black rail could vanish within the next two generations. Here are ways conservationists say we can save the black rail, other birds — and maybe ourselves.

1. Support pet shelters and animal control efforts. Apologies to cat-lovers, but felines are bird-killing machines, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of birds a year. Feral cats are the biggest offenders; efforts to reduce feral cat populations will help many birds.

2. Urge congressional and federal officials to protect the eastern black rail under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been sitting on a decision to do so for nearly two years.

3. Encourage local elected officials to protect wetlands. We've already lost half to development. Now, rising sea levels are squeezing what's left.

4. Practice ethical birding. Avoid disturbing them. And when it comes to black rails, keep in mind their breeding season is between March and September, when they are most vulnerable. The Audubon Society's most important guideline: Do no harm

5. Less lawn, more plants. Not an issue for black rails. But for many other birds, lawns don't help. Planting shrubs and trees, especially native varieties, adds protective habitat.

6. Support the efforts of public officials and business leaders who are trying to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Burning oil, coal and natural gas are the biggest contributors to heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide — gases that are rapidly changing ecosystems across the world.

7. Support black rail research by buying an endangered species license plate from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

- Tony Bartelme

Reach Tony Bartelme at 843-937-5554. Follow him on Twitter @tbartelme.

Tony Bartelme, senior projects reporter for The Post and Courier, has earned national honors from the Nieman, Scripps, Loeb and National Press foundations and is a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Twitter: @tbartelme Signal: 843-412-2283.

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