1 in 4 in the Past 50
An article was recently published in the journal Science regarding the steep decline in avian populations. Based on their findings bird populations have seen a steep decline of almost 30% in the last 50 years, which equates to the loss of 2.9 BILLION breeding adults. Current trends affect not only long distance migrating birds, but also the friendly native sparrows, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks that visit our feeders. In recent history individual species have been on the brink of extinction or gone extinct. The Passenger Pigeon is a prime (and local) example of a once abundant species that went extinct. The Cincinnati Zoo was home to the last known Passenger Pigeon, Martha, who passed in 1914. The zoo has an exhibit that serves as a memorial for Martha and as a place to pause and reflect on our actions and interactions with wildlife. Progress will require more than reflection, we can all make a difference by following several easy steps.
Birds are more than just enjoyable to watch. From pollinators to insect predators to seed dispersers, they provide environmental services that are incredibly significant to the functioning of our ecosystem. The decrease in populations are not restricted to birds that inhabit specific biomes. This indicates that reasons for this decline include a multitude of factors, including some that have simple solutions, which we can use to help reverse the decline. In order for the birds to make a comeback, it will require a concerted effort in which each of us must play our part! The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has provided Seven Simple Actions to Help Birds that everyone should take to help the birds make a comeback.
Several Easy Ways to Make a Difference
Keep Cats Indoors
- Cats kill more than 2.6 billion birds in North America annually.
- Attaching collars with bells or that make a noise to alert unsuspecting birds
Make Windows Safer
- Using Window Alerts, screens, or a film to break up the reflection of windows.
- Have bird feeders less than 3 feet from a window or more than 10 feet to reduce collisions
Offer Native Plants and Habitat for Birds
- Native species of plants offer food and shelter for nectar and berry eating species
- Empty yards offer very little in terms of resources. Make areas of your yard and oasis for native pollinators from hummingbirds to butterflies to bees
- Once established, native plants are generally easier to care for
- Pesticides are toxic to birds and can be harmful to humans
- Pesticides used unnecessarily can decrease the insects available for birds to eat
Avoid Wasteful use of Plastics
- Avoid single-use plastics such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, and straws
- Recycle items when using single-use plastics is unavoidable
Consume Products that are Good for the Birds
- Look for bird-friendly, shade-grown coffees
- Support companies that are bird conscious
Watch Birds and Share what you see
Provide Housing for Native Species
- Eastern Bluebird populations declined severely in the early 1900s due to introductions of invasive species, but have since recovered thanks to dedicated conservationists since the 60s that have provided housing and monitored the boxes
- Offering nest boxes for species that are cavity nesters is an easy way to help native species
For more information concerning the loss of 1 in 4 birds in the past 50 years including certain biomes and species that are affected, how the data was collected, and how scientists are investing in conservation work to reverse the situation visit Vanishing: More Than 1 in 4 Birds Has Disappeared in the Last 50 Years.