GARDEN BIRDS AND SURVIVAL

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.

Chubby Titmouse
Nuthatch

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.

Cute little bird!
Hairy Woodpecker
Chickadee

Right now, there are fewer than there were. Hopefully they will all be back again. I miss the menagerie.



Categories: Anecdote, Animals, birds, Birds, Blackstone Valley, bluebirds, Gallery, Goldfinch, Photography, Wildlife, Woodpeckers

Tags: , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. the rental we live in now seems to be a paradise to cat owners. One tenant in the house in the front of ours has 5 and she lets them roam freely. Actually, in the contract cats are forbidden in ground floor flats. NOBODY takes any notice of it and I most certainly don’t mind in particular. BUT as stated in your article, they do great damage to the bird population and we only ever talk about the merits of mouse hunting in the nearby fields…. I will have to think of a way to talk to all my dear cat owners next to us, on top of us, in the next door entry (in our part of the house with 6 parties per entry we have 5 cats, in the next entry at least 3 we know of and many more).
    I’m NOT looking forward to speak to them, and they all know I’m a dog person….

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  2. Three Billiion? That’s positively frightening, Marilyn. Glad to know that they’ve benefitted from the lockdowns though. We noticed that wildlife was behaving differently during our lockdown – all kinds of animals and birds became much bolder and we saw so much more than usual. That was heartening, as is the thought that if/when the human race disappears from the planet, it won’t be long before the Earth is reclaimed by the plants and animals that deserve to live on it more than we do.

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    • I just hope we can keep them alive long enough to survive humanity! It’s all the cutting down of their habitat that’s the worse, for them — AND for us. I look at all those deserted factories hidden in our swamps, the abandoned malls and think “Gee, wouldn’t that have made a nice wooded area for nesting?”

      Liked by 1 person

      • The destruction of habitat has got to be one of the most insane acts of humanity of all time, as not only does it affect the precious wildlife and eco system, it’s ruining our own future. So short-sighted. Nature will bite us back before long, that’s for sure. But I hope, as you rightly say, that the other species can ride the wave until then.

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  3. Putting a bell on your cat definitely does not work. I remember seeing one of mine, who did have a collar and a bell jump several feet in the air trying to catch birds. I tried to keep our cats in at night at least and Polly is a totally indoor cat. She only goes outside with me but she is easy to manage as she never jumps on to fences or tries to climb trees. However, I have seen her eyeing off birds so I’m sure if she was allowed out she might eventually start to hunt. Keeping my cat, and now Naomi’s two cats indoors is our small contribution to saving the birds and small wildlife and it is safer for the cats too. We never use snail baits or rat poison because of our pets but you can’t be sure about what other people do.

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    • When I had cats — and at one point, we (first husband, the one who died) had many cats and a couple of dogs. I had no idea how many birds pet cats kill. By then, I’d started keeping my cats inside anyway because there was a lot more traffic than I liked and I’d had a couple of cats run over by cars, so there were no more outdoor cats. Late, I was very glad I was keeping them inside. Pet cats kill millions of birds. It’s not the cat’s fault. It is their nature to hunt and kill, so I guess it fall to us to figure out how to make the world safer. Sometimes, it’s little things that really help.

      I try to talk to people about it, but mostly, they don’t realize how much damage their pets do and they don’t want to hear about it. Everyone is in favor of changing the climate, but no one wants to be personally inconvenienced in the process. Probably why we make so little progress!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Nice you have so many birds visiting your garden! I love birds, we get a lot of sparrows, crows, black birds, and a few robins, xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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