3 Billion Birds are gone.
I’ll repeat that: 3 billion birds are gone. American and Canadian skies have 3 billion less birds now than we did in 1970.
I knew it was bad. I’ve been taking statistics for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as part of their Project Feeder Watch program for years. I’m a member of Audubon; I’ve participated in Christmas bird counts. I’m outside watching birds, a lot. And it has been getting harder and harder to find them. My fellow birders lament about it, even regular folks remark that “there used to be more birds around here.”
My Late Husband’s Favorite
This is a red-winged blackbird–one of my late husband’s very favorite birds. I used to see many of them, but not any more. One third of the total population of these gorgeous songsters . . . GONE.
The study documenting this loss was published in September 2019 in Science, and was led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The scientists working on this project analyzed population data for 529 bird species. They used citizen science data, Christmas bird counts, eBird data, and even weather radar. Birds are probably the most beloved of all animals and certainly the most studied and documented. There’s a whole bunch of data.
Bird Families With the Highest Losses
Here’s some more bad news: 182 million lost in the lark family, 618 million lost in the wood-warbler family, 862 million gone in the sparrow family. Finches? 145 million gone. And in the wonderful blackbird family, 440 million are gone. Think blue jays are pretty? You’re now seeing 1 in 4 GONE. And those beautiful dark-eyed juncos? 1/3 of them are gone. Grassland birds are suffering catastrophic losses. 75% of meadowlarks, gone.
WHAT CAN YOU DO??
You can do something!! Cornell lists 7 simple actions you can take. And now I’m going to be blunt. If you aren’t doing these things then you do not have the right to say you care about birds. Full stop. Are these things difficult? Tough. Inconvenient? Too bad.
Do them. Please.
–> Let’s start with keeping your cat indoors. If you let you cat wander outside it is killing birds. I researched this in graduate school and in the 20 years since I finished my study, a lot more data has come out. My research showed that bells and declawing DIDN’T WORK. Keep them indoors. For help with this, contact the American Bird Conservancy’s Cats Indoors Program. Speaking of this amazing group, did you know I’m a monthly donor and have been for years? I’m also a member of Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Please consider donating to these groups.
–> Stop using pesticides! The insect population is suffering a catastrophic collapse and it isn’t just bees. Is it possible there are less insects for birds to eat? Grassland birds are suffering a particularly high loss. Roundup is bad and there is no justifying its use. If you are spraying garbage like this all over your yard, you are killing birds. Stop. Doing. It.
–> Use less plastic. I know that’s tough, but we’ve got to do it. Try writing to companies that are packaging products with too much plastics. Boycott plastic bags at the supermarket. Use green bags! Stop buying single use water bottles. Carry your own reusable one. Start setting an example for our kids.
–> Make your windows safer. Walk outside and pretend to be a bird. This can help the placement of blinds and stickers. Consult one of the groups I’ve mentioned previously. They will help.
–> Plant, plant, plant. And not just any plants. Take some time and go to a local nursery. Ask them which native plants attract birds.
–> Be a citizen scientist! Project Feeder Watch is a great way to involve kids but the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has lots of wonderful ideas. Help collect data. Go outside and love birds because if you spend a little time observing them, I promise you will fall in love.
–> Drink shade grown coffee! Start boycotting restaurants that don’t serve it. Buy it when you shop. Check labels.
I donate to over 1/2 a dozen environmental charities every month, and I give all my royalties from the sale of The Skye Van Bloem Trilogy. Please donate money and time, if you are able.
I realize some of my words are harsh. And yes, I’m mad. Really, really mad. But I’m also unbelievably sad. I’ve cried and I’m having trouble sleeping. We are watching the collapse of the natural world. Remember the “canary in the coal mine”?
Birds are my favorite animals on the planet, and I believe my life has been rich and wonderful because of them. Please help to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy them. What a shame if one day your kid has to say to their grandkid, “I remember once when there were birds.”
Please take action right now.