TEST TIDBITS: ARE YOU SEEING FEWER BIRDS THESE DAYS?
It is not just your imagination if you answered that question with an affirmative nod and a wistful remark about hearing less birdsong these days. A large study carried out by the Bird Conservancy, Cornell University’s Ornithology Department, the US Geological Survey, the Annual bird Breeding Survey and the Annual Christmas Bird Count found that North America lost about 3 billion birds, representing over 100 species in the last 50 years. This, according to the lead researcher, Ken Rosenberg, is a signal of a looming “biodiversity crisis”. He and others involved in the survey call this moment a warning like a “canaries in a coal mine”. In a 2014 survey in Europe, Richard Gregory, principal researcher for the Royal society for the Protection of Birds, a loss of 421 million birds over the last 30 years. In the North American survey, there were 29% fewer birds in the US since 1970. The hardest hit area is the grassland area—that is our home! (To see a good map of how different areas are affected go to https://www.nytimes.org/2019/09/19/bird-population) Such a loss is not just a loss of these birds and their song that brightens our days. A loss in one area affects many other areas. Birds can be both prey and predator. They are seed dispensers, pest controllers, pollinators and one of the key components of keeping our ecological system healthy and balanced. UN recent reports on the near extinction of more than a million plant and animals and reports of the loss of insect populations are interconnected with the loss of bird populations.
Why are bird numbers dropping some much? There are a number of factors that are making such an impact on the heath of our birds. Some of the causes (not in order of the risk) are increases in use of pesticides, increase of mono-cropped land, habitat loss, light pollution –especially during migration seasons, food loss (see insects & plants above), roaming cats, loss of waterways, and climate disruption. The good news is that ducks and water foul are experiencing less loss of numbers. This is partially due to federal regulation led by hunters and EPA rules to assist some species. There are no such protections for the warblers or sparrows.
EARTH STEWARD ACTION: Begin planning for that flower garden and native plantings to attract birds. Set up a bird feeder. Go to www.birdwatchersdigest.com for hints on bird feed and other topics.