Our birds are telling us the earth cannot continue to support life if we keep destroying resources and consuming everything. Since 1970 we have lost nearly 3 billion birds.
NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT.
The first-ever comprehensive assessment of net population changes in the U.S. and Canada reveals across-the-board declines that scientists call “staggering.” All told, the North American bird population is down by 2.9 billion breeding adults, with devastating losses among birds in every biome. Forests alone have lost 1 billion birds. Grassland bird populations collectively have declined by 53%, or another 720 million birds.
The loss of this much of our avifauna is heartbreaking and the magnitude is almost impossible to comprehend. Birds, as crucial indicators of overall environmental health, are telling us loud and clear that the biosphere is in trouble. Unchecked, unregulated, unsustainable consumption of resources is destroying the fabric of our ecosystems and creating destructive feedback loops that will harm all future generations of humanity. We cannot keep on this course. Together, we must all act immediately to change our culture to ensure that the earth can support humans and wildlife indefinitely.
Support politicians at every level that will enact strict environmental regulations, strengthen existing laws, and pledge to work across industries to promote a sustainable culture. Actively campaign to get us off the fossil fuel grid and on to a sustainable energy source. Get out and advocate for the birds and wildlife you love. Become active in your local chapter of the Audubon society. Donate to causes that are actively preserving land (we suggest the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog as a local option, there are many others!). Support your local farmers and avoid products grown in corporate megafarms. Do something! One action alone with not change our future, but together we can create a much better world for all future generations!
The loss of our ecological heritage harms us all. From the intrinsic aesthetic value all life has to the free ecosystem services birds provide to us free of charge we are all enriched by the existence of other species. Birds are crucial pollinators and seed dispersers that affect entire ecosystems of other species. Birds provide free pest control of agricultural fields. Indeed, as an example studies have shown that barn owls are more efficient and economically viable forms of rodent control than industrial pesticides, and they do not involve the production of toxic chemicals that leech into the environment. If we allow this loss of life to continue, we are all diminished by its passing.
The Trump Administration's relentless assault on environmental protection has now cost our country clean water protections. To be absolutely clear: not only do humans need access to unspoiled drinking water, it is crucial to the survival of our birds and wildlife as well. Our birds are suffering a slow, cruel death by a thousand cuts. Take action now to tell your politicians at every level that this unsustainable, monstrous greed is costing us the very biosphere we rely on for life.
There is still time to make amends. We can, collectively, enact the necessary change in the world if we are deliberate about it. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology suggests:
7 simple steps that we can all take that will help mitigate the loss of bird life.
1. Make Windows Safer
By both day and night, glass surfaces pose an enormous threat to birds, particularly during migration seasons. Work with whatever you are willing to live with on your windows to make them perceptible to birds to reduce this threat. Challenge your city and state authorities to require all new construction projects to use bird-safe glass options, and to retro-fit old buildings.
2. Keep Cats Indoors
Cats are estimated to kill more than 2.6 billion birds annually in the U.S. and Canada. There is no such thing as a safe outdoor cat, PERIOD. Keep your cats indoors. Not only will this save birds, but it will also respect your neighbors' yards; and it's even safer and healthier for your cat! Please promote ethical, responsible pet ownership.
3. Reduce or Eliminate Lawn; Plant Native Species
Large expanses of monoculture grass are ecological dead zones. They also fragment available natural habitat, often making the distance between quality patches impossible to overcome for some smaller species of animals. Instead, plant native species that support pollinators and other wildlife. Your life will be enriched by the birds and other creatures you can enjoy, and the earth can continue to support non-human life.
4. Avoid Pesticides
More than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied in the United States each year. The continent’s most widely used insecticides, called neonicotinoids or “neonics,” are lethal to birds and to the insects that birds consume. Common weed killers used around homes, such as 2, 4-D and glyphosate (used in Roundup), can be toxic to wildlife, and glyphosate has been declared a probable human carcinogen. Avoid the use of these and other chemicals whenever possible and consider purchasing organic food that has not been treated with chemicals. Support your local farmers and buy seasonally appropriate foods.
5. Buy Bird Friendly Coffee
Three-quarters of the world’s coffee farms grow their plants in the sun, 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. Look for shade grown coffee marked with labels that say "Rain Forest Alliance" at minimum or "Bird Friendly." Ask your local coffee shops and retailers to carry bird-friendly coffee. We need to protect the lands where our birds winter in addition to their summer breeding grounds.
6. Reduce or Eliminate Plastic Usage
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. Advocate for bans of plastic bags, styrofoam, and straws. Encourage stores to offer incentives for reusable bags, and ask restaurants and other businesses to phase out single-use plastics. Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, and 91% of plastics created are not recycled.
7. Watch Birds, and Engage With Others About What You See
The world’s most abundant bird, the Passenger Pigeon, went extinct, and people didn’t realize how quickly it was vanishing until it was too late. Monitoring birds is essential to help protect them, but tracking the health of the world’s 10,000 bird species is an immense challenge. Join a project such as eBird, Project FeederWatch, Christmas Bird Count, Breeding Bird Survey, or the International Shorebird Survey to record your bird observations. Your contributions will provide valuable information to show where birds are thriving—and where they need our help.