June 16, 2007
|Bye Bye Birdie||Environment|
The National Audubon Society reports that populations of many of America's most familiar and beloved birds are in dangerous decline. Some have fallen more than 80 percent in the past 40 years — a direct result of the loss of habitat, including grasslands, healthy forests, and wetlands, from multiple environmental threats such as sprawl, energy development, and the spread of industrialized agriculture. The threats are now compounded and amplified by the escalating effects of global warming—as detailed in MoJo's current cover story.
"These are not rare or exotic birds we're talking about — these are the birds that visit our feeders and congregate at nearby lakes and seashores and yet they are disappearing day by day," said Audubon chair and former EPA administrator Carol Browner. "Their decline tells us we have serious work to do, from protecting local habitats to addressing the huge threats from global warming."
Audubon's assessment comes from 40 years of its citizen-led Christmas Bird Count's data and the Breeding Bird Survey. The following once-common species are among those hardest hit: Northern Bobwhites down 82 percent; Evening Grosbeaks down 78 percent; Northern Pintails down 78 percent; Greater Scaups down 75 percent; Eastern Meadowlarks down 71 percent; Common Terns down 70 percent; Snow Buntings down 64 percent; Rufous Hummingbirds down 58 percent; Whip-poor-wills down 57 percent; Little Blue Herons down 54 percent in the U.S.
Check out Audubon's suggestions on what individuals can do to help.
One problem we "civilized" humans have is that we gradually grow accustomed to whatever is the current state of affairs. As birds and other species dwindle and disappear, it isn't long before we think that's just the way things are. We stop expecting to see birds in our back yards; before long, we forget they were ever there.
But a world without birds. I hope I don't live to see it.