It is really amazing to see a flock of geese flying in formation in the blue sky overhead. Maybe not as amazing to have a flock of pigeons fly overhead and drop their little surprises on your head as they fly by.
I was just starting high school when one of my aunts gave me a parakeet named Sam. She had him as a pet for quite a while and kindly gave him to me. They say a sign of how tame a parakeet has become is the lower to the floor they will be comfortable. Sam would play catch with me on the floor with a Wiffle golf ball rolling it back and forth. He also talked. I was attending McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, New York. The dress code at the all boys school was suit coat and tie so I had to wear a white shirt to school every day. The conversation around the house was often whether I had a clean shirt to wear for the next day or were all of my dress shirts dirty. Wouldn’t you know that Sam picked up on that and would shout out “dirty shirt, dirty shirt” when we talked about the laundry. That was one tame lovable pet.
After 1963 the following situation would occur. It’s an average kind of a day and while you are going for a walk you see many birds congregating in a large tree and more flying in. That makes some of us uneasy because of one of my favorite movies “The Birds.” Alfred Hitchcock’s hit scary movie released in 1963 that tells the tale of all species of birds gathering to attack humans. One comment in the movie relates to the fact that birds by far outnumber humans on planet Earth.
An article published on phys.org September 19th 2019 discusses a recent study in the journal Science about the decline of bird populations. The article by Cornell University is titled ” New study finds US and Canada have lost more than 1 in 4 birds in the past 50 years.” That’s a staggering 2.9 billion birds lost since 1970. Quoting Ken Rosenberg who was the study’s lead author “Multiple independent lines of of evidence show a massive reduction in the abundance of birds.” Rosenberg is a senior scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy.
If you remember your history, birds particularly canaries, were used in mines to detect poisonous gasses. The birds would die well before the gas concentration would kill humans giving them time to flee to safety. According this study “birds are indicators of environmental health, signaling that natural systems across the U.S. and Canada are now being so severely impacted by human activities that they no longer support the same robust wildlife populations.”
Peter Marra, senior scientist emeritus and former head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird center, is a coauthor of the study and currently director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative at Georgetown University. Marra says: “It’s imperative to address immediate and ongoing threats, both because the domino effects can lead to the decay of ecosystems that humans depend on for our own health and livelihoods – and because people all over the world cherish birds in their own right. Can you imagine a world without birdsong?”
Proof of the drastic drop in bird populations came from a combination of 143 radar stations across the U.S. and Canada and nearly 50 years of ground-based data collection. They haven’t defined the cause or causes of the declining bird populations, but it can be attributed in part at least to the expansion of our human habitat. They say that the decline in North America is quite comparable to that of the rest of the world.
Here is the list of some the birds being found in decreasing numbers as listed in the article. “1) Grassland birds are especially hard hit, with a 53 percent reduction in population – more than 720 million birds – since 1970. 2) Shore birds, most of which frequent sensitive coastal habitats, were already at dangerously low numbers and have lost more than one-third of their population. 3) The volume of spring migration, measured by radar in night skies, has dropped by 14 percent in just the past decade.” Even what we would call “backyard birds” have been declining.
The scientists don’t have a solution for this serious problem stating that more research is needed to pinpoint the exact causes for declines in specific species in order to know what can be done to slow the decline. Obviously, pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers are significant, but so is our continued warming of the climate. More work must be done.
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