What's with the birds?
He is a splash of brilliance on a gloomy, overcast day. Sunshine yellow body feathers standing out stunningly against deep black wings and forehead.
It has been a long time since I have seen a goldfinch at the feeder. They used to come in flocks, along with troupes of pine grosbeaks, nuthatches, chickadees and others. Not any more, regretfully.
I am no expert, or even especially knowledgeable in the matter of birds. I sense, however, a general absence in numbers and species. They just are not around in large numbers anymore, at least not at my lake place.
The lone goldfinch stays at the feeder a long time and the more I watch him, the more I wish we could talk. I’m sure he would have much to tell me about goings on in the bird world.
We cannot talk, of course, so I turn to a next best source, the State of the World’s Birds report 2018. The report was done by Birdlife International, a conservation group working to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity.
“The data are unequivocal,” said Tris Allinson, BirdLife’s senior global science officer, and editor-in-chief of the report. “We are undergoing a steady and continuing deterioration in the status of the world’s birds. The threats driving the avian extinction crisis are many and varied, but invariably of humanity’s making.”
Forty per cent of the world’s 11,000 bird species are in decline, says the report. Forty-four per cent are holding steady, while seven per cent of species are increasing. The other eight per cent or so have unknown trends.
BirdLife believes that a mass extinction event is occurring, the sixth in the world’s 4.5-billion-year history. However it would be the first mass extinction driven by a single species. You guessed it – humans.
“Scientists estimate that species are disappearing at a rate 100 to 10,000 times faster than the natural rate,” says the report, “with perhaps dozens of species going extinct every day.”
Not all the news is bad. The seven per cent that are increasing is positive news even if some of the species create smelly messes in our parks and on our lawns. Conservation efforts are believed responsible for increases among those species.
Conservationists believe that 25 more bird species would have gone extinct in recent decades if not for massive conservation efforts by government and many individual groups.
You don’t have to go to school and take courses to understand what is killing the birds. Agriculture expansion and the use of insecticides is a main cause, followed by urbanization and logging and climate change, which is developing into a major future threat.
The BirdLife report says that the earth once held six trillion trees. The number now is believed to be three trillion and the report says the planet is losing 10 billion trees every day.
Saving trees and growing more of them is an important way to stop this tree loss, which is a huge factor is declining bird numbers.
Thankfully we live in a society that seems to understand that. Roughly two billion trees are planted every year in the United States and Canada.
BirdLife, along with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund plans to have one trillion trees re-grown, saved from loss or receiving better protection by 2050.
The BirdLife report says that as well as saving and planting trees we need to restore more of birds’ other habitats and eradicate or control invasive species. It has been estimated that 1,500 of various animal, plant and insect species have become established outside their natural areas because of human acts, making them invasive species.
It is not hard to watch the decline of bird life, shrug and move along. There are many other things to think about. Our lives really haven’t been changed that much because the passenger pigeon or Dodo bird no longer exist.
However, what is happening to the birds is a warning for our planet. Some scientists believe that biodiversity on earth already has dropped to unsafe levels.
When one species of anything disappears, others are affected. We are all connected, humans, other animals, plants and insects. When some start disappearing, especially at the rate we see today, we all need to become concerned.