3 Billion Birds are gone.  Birds need our immediate help!

Nearly 3 Billion birds in North American have been lost in the past 50 years!

Posted October 4, 2019
In a recent article in the journal, Science, it was revealed that researchers estimate that nearly 3 billion North American birds have been lost in the last 50 years.  That’s in just less than one lifetime!

In fact, that figure of 3 billion translates into nearly 30% of the total and even includes such common species as sparrows and blackbirds.  That is certainly a wake-up call and signals a widespread ecological crisis.

Remember the canary in the coal mine?

Coal miners used to carry a canary around with them, because the bird was an accurate indicator when something wasn’t right in the coal mine.  When the bird was not well, the miners would then head to the surface to avoid problems.

This loss of nearly 3 billion birds in only fifty years is another accurate indicator that something in the environment isn’t right.  This is our wake-up call and we need to heed this warning and take immediate actions to help our planet.

 

A large variety of species are affected in this loss of 3 billion birds.

It’s not just a few species that have been affected, but instead, the decline is being seen across a large variety of species.  Researchers say this is a direct result of humans altering the natural world, which we’ve done through habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, pesticide use, and climate change impacts, such as drought, fires, and increased ferocity of storms.

7 simple actions you can take now which will help the planet’s birds.

We can’t change the planet overnight, but if everyone makes small and simple adjustments to their every-day living, it will make a substantial favorable impact.  Here are seven very simple actions you can begin to do now to help heal the planet and save our remaining birds.

Use less plastic.

The oceans and terrestrial environments are overly-burdened with plastics.  These plastic products will still be around in hundreds of years. Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, and 91% of plastics created are not recycled. Studies show that at least 80 seabird species ingest plastic, mistaking it for food. Cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, and other trash have been found in the stomachs of dead albatrosses. If you wish to see what is floating around in the world’s oceans, simply take a stroll on Bonaire’s eastern coastline, where plastics continuously wash ashore.

Avoid single-use plastics including bags, bottles, wraps, and disposable utensils. It’s far better to choose reusable items, but if you do have disposable plastic, be sure to recycle it.

7 actions to save birds.

Avoid the use of pesticides.

It’s well known that pesticides affect a wide range of species, as they affect many insects and animals, not only the ones you wish to be rid of. The entire food chain is affected.

Pesticides that are toxic to birds can harm them directly through contact, or if they eat contaminated seeds or prey. Pesticides can also harm birds indirectly by reducing the number of available insects, which birds need to survive.

A healthy choice for you, your family, and birds: Consider purchasing organic food. Nearly 70% of the produce sold in the U.S. contains pesticides. Reduce pesticides around your home and garden. Take the time to research natural remedies, many of which are more effective in the long run, and which do not have the same harmful effects on the environment.

Help with Citizen Science.

Monitoring birds is essential to help protect them, but tracking the health of the world’s 10,000 bird species is an immense challenge.

To understand how birds are faring, scientists need hundreds of thousands of people to report what they’re seeing in backyards, neighborhoods, and wild places around the world. Without this information, scientists will not have enough timely data to show where and when birds are declining around the world.

Enjoy birds while helping science and conservation: Join a project such as eBird to record your bird observations. Your contributions will provide valuable information to show where birds are thriving—and where they need our help.

Keep your cats indoors.

It is estimated that cats kill more than 2.6 billion birds annually in the U.S. and Canada (source). This is the #1 human-caused reason for the loss of birds, aside from habitat loss.

Save birds and keep cats healthy by keeping cats indoors or creating an outdoor “catio.”

Use native plants.

Birds have fewer places to safely rest during migration and to raise their young: More than 10 million acres of land in the United States were converted to developed land from 1982 to 1997 (source).

Lawns and pavement don’t offer enough food or shelter for many birds and other wildlife. With more than 40 million acres of lawn in the U.S. alone (source), there’s huge potential to support wildlife by replacing lawns with native plantings.

Add native plants, watch the birds come in! Native plants add interest and beauty to your yard and neighborhood and provide shelter and nesting areas for birds. The nectar, seeds, berries, and insects will sustain birds and diverse wildlife.

Make your windows safer.

It is estimated that up to 1 billion birds die each year after hitting windows in the United States and Canada.  During the day, the birds see reflections in the glass as habitat they can fly into.  At night, migrating birds can be drawn in by city lights and are at risk of colliding with high-rise buildings.
These simple steps save birds:

On the outside of the window, install screens or break up reflections using film or paint.

Drink shade-grown coffee.

Three-quarters of the world’s coffee farms grow their plants in the sun (source), destroying forests that birds and other wildlife need for food and shelter. Sun-grown coffee also often requires using environmentally harmful pesticides and fertilizers. On the other hand, shade-grown coffee preserves a forest canopy that helps migratory birds survive the winter.

Too few consumers are aware of the problems of sun coffee. Those who are aware may be reluctant to pay more for environmentally sustainable coffee.

Enjoy shade-grown coffee: It’s a win-win-win! It’s delicious, economically beneficial to coffee farmers, and helps more than 42 species of North American migratory songbirds that winter in coffee plantations, including orioles, warblers, and thrushes.

“If you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the big problems of the world.”

–Thomas E. Lovejoy, Honorary NAOC Chair,  Senior Fellow–United Nations Foundation

About the author

Susan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a certified bird guide, a PADI SCUBA Diving Master Instructor,  and an underwater and topside photographer.

Susan Davis, the author.

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