29% Decline in North American Birds
A recent study on birds in North America published in Science (October 4, 2019) reveals a 29% population decline. (bit.ly/2o9Y6TP)
“Decline of the North American Avifauna” reveals a loss of three billion birds over all habitats and species.
Many Pontiac residents know we’re receiving fewer songbird migrants annualy: there’s a noticeable, disturbing silence in our countryside.
The 29% decline of bird populations is alarming because species extinctions warn of planetary change. The report explains:
“Species extinctions have defined the global biodiversity crisis, but extinction begins with loss in abundance of individuals that can result in compositional and functional changes of ecosystems. Using multiple and independent monitoring networks, we report population losses across much of the North American avifauna over 48 years, including once-common species and from most biomes. … A continent-wide weather radar network also reveals a similarly steep decline in biomass passage of migrating birds over a recent 10-year period. This loss of bird abundance signals an urgent need to address threats to avert future avifaunal collapse and associated loss of ecosystem integrity, function, and services.”
Global bird decline
Is this vast avian population decline only affecting North America?
A 2018 study reported an almost complete reproductive failure of plants and animals in northern Greenland, where snowfall and cold during summer caused chaos.
“In a well-studied ecosystem in Northeast Greenland, this resulted in the most complete reproductive failure encountered in the terrestrial ecosystem during more than two decades of monitoring: only a few animals and plants were able to reproduce because of abundant and late melting snow. These observations, we suggest, should open our eyes to potentially drastic consequences of predicted changes in both the mean and the variability of arctic climate.”
Canary in a coal mine
Coal miners used to carry caged canaries into mines because the birds died if methane or carbon dioxide were present. Canaries gave their lives serving us as warnings, perishing before toxic gases reached levels that kill human beings.
Similarly, birds everywhere are demonstrating Earth’s environmental crisis. Unlike the coal miners who could leave their mine, we have nowhere to run.
Greta Thunberg: How dare we?
September 23, 2019. Sixteen-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg delivered a powerful address to the United Nations Climate Summit. Her essential message? Adults are killing life on Earth as we know it and leaving an ecological disaster for our children to cope with “How dare you?” she said. If you’ve not heard her, check this out: bit.ly/2m8FWQX
In America, the administration of President Donald Trump “has sought to increase fossil-fuel use and scrap many environmental regulations, which he has referred to as impediments to United States’ economic and energy output.” (bit.ly/2wLzx2h)
In Canada, Environmental groups gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (still PM at time of writing prior to our October 21 election) a partial nod of approval:
“‘The overall takeaway (is) that the government has done a pretty good job — ‘better in some areas, worse in some,’ said Stephen Hazell, director of policy and general counsel at Nature Canada.” (bit.ly/2ZRk8Z7)
As Thunberg says, all leaders, all peoples of Earth must do more to protect our environment.
In the face of despair what can we do?
Eric has built 14 Eastern Bluebird nestboxes at Spiritwood and annually we observe bluebirds raise their broods. This September, we saw parent birds showing their young a nestbox. The five of them perched on it, taking turns flitting to the hole, looking and then going inside.
Were the parents imprinting Spiritwood’s nestbox location into their young’s migratory memory, where they were showing them a safe home?
We believe so.
You know? We CAN help preserve bird habitats. We CAN decide not to cut hayfields and trees before nestlings have fledged. Just as with milkweeds for Monarchs, we can plant native species which support birds.
Be the change you want to see in our world.
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author, and visual artist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and view her art at facebook.com/KatharineFletcherArtist/