This morning I read an article in National Geographic about the lockdown. It seems to have made the lives of at least some birds better, at least for this year.
It turns out I was wrong about us having lost a billion birds in the past 50 years. It was three billion.
Obviously this is not a long-term solution. We’d have to be in permanent lockdown for that to work. It does mean that if we do something — feed them, stop cutting down wooded areas, stop pumping pollutants and pesticides into the environment, they can recover.
Scientists in North America have been particularly interested in how birds responded. That’s because two years ago, research showed that the continent (North America) has lost three billion birds since 1970 — mainly because of pesticide use and habitat loss, but also from collisions with glass windows, cats, and other causes. There’s been hope that one silver lining of the pandemic would be the positive ripple effects of the “anthropause”— last spring’s period of reduced traffic, air pollution, and noise. Now, the data are coming in, and it’s good news.
National Geographic September 23, 2021
The species that did better during the lockdown were always our most common birds — never considered rare species — but they are becoming rare.
Using observations submitted to the popular eBird app, scientists discovered that 66 out of the 82 bird species they looked at changed their behavior during that time, Elizabeth Anne Brown reports. In particular, warblers and sparrows started taking advantage of human habitats within a matter of weeks, coming closer to major roads and airports than ever before. That’s especially good news because these two groups account for nearly half of the bird decline since 1970, says study author Nicola Koper, a professor of conservation biology. More habitat gives these beleaguered birds a better chance of survival—if only for this season.
National Geographic September 23, 2021
Additionally, bluebirds, buntings, starlings and many raptors including big ones like Red-Tailed Hawks — all have serious (lethal) issues from poisons — especially rat poison (it kills humans, too) as well as other agents people use to control rodents and insects. Poisons get ingested by raptors who eat poisoned animals. So, for that matter, do our own dogs and cats. Meanwhile, pet cats kill millions of birds annually. For fun, not food. Putting a bell on their collars does not work.
You don’t need to love birds to believe we should save them from disappearing. I’m not wild about rhinoceroses, but I’d like them to remain alive, even if I never see one in its natural habitat. Mind you, I could live without the annual invasion of mice into my house in the cold early days of winter, we don’t poison them. Instead, we have sealed every opening of the house we can to keep them out. A few will still get inside, but hopefully regular plastic mouse traps can take care of the rest. No poisons here — at least none I know about.
Another thing. If you poison small animals, sooner or later your dog or cat will find it and try to eat it because animals do that. If they have been poisoned, your pet will also be poisoned. It’s not just the world we are saving. It is our world, too. Our home. gardens, and pets.
We lost a lot of our larger birds in the middle of this summer probably due to the crazy amount of rain creating some kind of fungus. According to various reports, that plague — whatever it was — was causing birds to all go blind and die in a frenzy. There has to be nothing on earth more heartbreaking than a blind bird. Although the fungus seems to have gone, I have yet to see any Blue Jays, Starlings, Grosbeaks, Robins, Bluebirds or other medium to large garden birds. Only woodpeckers seem to have been exempt.
Right now, there are fewer than there were. Hopefully they will all be back again. I miss the menagerie.