Cerulean Warbler (photo)
After announcing that its international bi-annual volunteer bird count, October Big Day, would take place on October 19, 2019, researchers at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and their colleagues from other avian organizations, shared with the world the devastating news that North America has taken a serious hit in its bird population - a 3 billion bird loss over the last 50 years.
A good portion of the affected birds reside in grasslands and they are frequent visitors to suburban areas. Birds like sparrows, warblers, blackbirds, and finches, had populations that were 53 percent higher in 1970. Grassland birds, like them, made up the majority of bird species that declined since that time in North America.
The main reasons for the demise of the North American birds cited are: habitat loss, pesticide use, and the consequential loss of insects for birds to eat. Most recently, severe weather changes, fires, and droughts doubtless contributed to the decline in bird populations.
This video by the American Bird Conservancy brings this loss home in this video:
The whole study, Decline of the North American Avifauna, was published in the journal Science on September 19, 2019. Members of the following organizations were involved in collecting and reporting the research:
- Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Cornell University
- American Bird Conservancy
- National Wildlife Research Centre, Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, United States Geological Survey
- Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, United States Geological Survey
- Bird Conservancy of the Rockies
- Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park
Every one of the above science centers, governmental or private non-profit (linked above), had a major role in this massive bird count, the most extensive study of this kind ever undertaken in North America.
The loss of bird populations from any country or region is tragic. But there are ways that we, as individuals, can help:
10 Things Each of Us Can Do To Protect Our Local Birds
House Sparrow, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
We can help...
1. By keeping our cats inside. (C'mon, you know this!)
2. By not using pesticides on our properties.
3. By removing grass and other non-bird-friendly plants from our yards and substituting local bird-friendly plants.
4. By feeding our neighborhood birds in places that are protected, like tree branches and porch coverings. Identify each species and check out what kinds of seeds, nuts, or fruits will attract them. Be patient; they will come.
5. By purchasing appropriate feeders to dispense the seeds. The access areas in the feeders should be the appropriate size for the feed. Also, see that the birds you want to attract can comfortably perch on them. You can have special food for blue jays, but they must be able to perch comfortably on the feeder!
6. By keeping feeders away from windows or covering our windows. According to the American Bird Conservancy, up to a billion birds dye from crashing into windows each year. Keep birds away from your windows by covering them on the outside with screen or by using reflective repellent aids to keep them away. If you are using screens, make sure they are an inch or so away from the window and mounted tightly; if the birds fly into them, the screen will cushion their crash. I purchased my outside window coverings from Birdscreen.com.
7. Keep other critters out of your bird feeders. (Here are some suggestions.)
8. Give your birds clean water to drink, and when the weather is warm, make sure you provide bath water as well.
9. If you would like to donate to any of the non-profit bird conservation organizations that participated in the bird count study, you can do so at their websites. Just click on their links above.
10. Join the international bird count on October 19, 2019, no matter where you are in the world, and report your findings. You can give as little as 10 minutes of your time, but it will be well spent! You will be helping the bird conservation cause and having fun too!
sources: National Geographic, Science, American Bird Conservancy, National Zoo
October Big Day! Count The Birds Wherever You Are On October 19, 2019
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