Three adults birding together in a park.
Three adults birding together in a park.

Photo: Luke Franke/Audubon
Photo: Luke Franke/Audubon

Help Birds

Six Budget-friendly Ways to Protect Birds

Protecting birds and the places they need doesn't need to break the bank.

According to a January 2024 report from the Pew Research Center, more than eight in ten Americans say they are at least somewhat concerned about the cost of consumer goods and housing. Another poll from March 2023 found that 73% of Americans worry about the quality of the environment. Combine worries about the economy and the environment, and things get overwhelming.

Luckily, protecting birds and the places they need doesn't need to break the bank. Plus, environmental worries may be eased by focusing on being part of the solution! With that in mind, here are six ways to be bird-friendly on a budget:

1. Sign Petitions

Perhaps the most budget-friendly way to help birds is to sign petitions and submit comment forms that influence policy that affects birds and the places they need. You can do it for free! Help birds by submitting comments and your signature to back bills and other initiatives that you support. Find current Audubon action opportunities that need your support here.

A male Greater Sage-Grouse performs a mating display.
The Greater Sage-Grouse benefits from bird-friendly legislation. Photo: Evan Barrientos/Audubon Rockies

2. Volunteer

If you have time on your hands, consider volunteering in the field of bird conservation! Most volunteer opportunities are free, fulfilling, and look great on a resume. Check out our volunteer opportunities in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming here.

A young person transfers a starter plant into the ground.
A volunteer helps plant a bird-friendly garden. Photo: Evan Barrientos/Audubon Rockies

3. Swap Out Your Outdoor Lightbulbs

Light pollution poses a threat to bird species that migrate at night. Making your home’s outdoor lighting more bird-friendly doesn’t require buying expensive new fixtures (although improving your fixtures is great too). You can also simply swap out your light bulbs.

Swap out your current light bulbs for ones with fewer lumens. They are dimmer, won't emit as much light into the sky, and are still bright enough for many home uses. Also opt for warmer-colored lights (which give off yellow hues) rather than cool-colored lights (which give off blue hues). Warm-colored light has a shorter reach than cool-colored light and has been shown to have fewer negative impacts on wildlife.

Most light bulbs can be purchased at home improvement stores for less than $20 per pack and individual bulbs can cost as little as $3.

A yellow songbird gathers downy organic material from a tree trunk.
Yellow Warblers migrate at night and are affected by light pollution. Dark skies make their travels safer. Photo: Pratyaydipta Rudra/Audubon Photography Awards

4. Plant Native Plants

Plants and birds go hand in hand. Native plants provide food and shelter for native birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. Doing your part could look like a few native plants on your patio or an entire yard filled with different native species. No native plant garden is too small!

Audubon's free native plant database can help you determine which species to plant. Four-packs and six-packs of native starter plants can often be purchased at local nurseries for less than $15 each. Seeds can be harder to grow but are even more budget-friendly, especially if you keep an eye out for local seed swap events and check your local library for a seed bank. And if you need flowerpots, I recommend searching for low-cost options at flea markets and thrift stores.

A Rufous Hummingbird hovers near Indian paintbrush flowers.
Rufous Hummingbirds benefit from native plant gardens. Photo: Steve Wickliffe/Audubon Photography Awards

5. Participate in Community Science

If you’re watching birds, you can contribute to conservation science. Databases like eBird accept lists of bird sightings from the public. The data collected is then used to inform research that can help protect birds and the places they need.

You can build a bird list in real-time and submit it using the free eBird phone app, or you can write your list and submit it later on a computer at

Audubon also provides in-person community science opportunities in Colorado and Wyoming.

A young person removes a bird from a mist net.
Critical conservation research is informed by community science projects. Photo: Evan Barrientos/Audubon Rockies

6. Share Your Love of Birds With Others

People only conserve what they care about, but people are increasingly disconnected from nature. Help your friends, family, and co-workers connect a bit more often! Point out the birds that you see when you’re together, share a fun bird fact, or tell them about an issue that’s near to your heart. Sharing your love of birds brings attention to them and their plight. You never know who you might inspire! I’ve turned a few friends and family members into bird lovers, myself. 

Two adults outside. One is pointing to something out of the frame.
Who will you enjoy birds with today? Photo: Photo: Luke Franke/Audubon

With just a little time and the desire to help, you can make a difference for birds and the places they need. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember: there are ways you can help.


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