More than 3 billion individual birds have been lost in North America over the last half century. A new study published in the journal Science, combined decades of bird survey data with a decade of radar data that detected migrating birds to come to this grave conclusion. What’s most shocking is that this decline has been seen with common and rarer birds alike. Some of the greatest losses have come from species that people think of as abundant like starlings and dark-eyed juncos.
This loss represents one-third of the population of the continent. This conclusion raises many questions in the aftermath. With so many individuals lost, how has this affected these ecosystems. Conservation efforts have been primarily based on trying to save at-risk species, but this finding makes me question whether this is really enough. I am not sure what the answers might be, but we have to dive deeper into these losses and try to figure out what is causing it specifically and determine whether there are effective ways to mitigate this damage. I am very interested to see whether anyone will investigate the abundance of individuals across other classes of organisms. While the results of such an investigation may or may not be quite sobering, I think it is something we will need to know if we are ever going to be successful with the conservation of biodiversity.
Personally, I find this to be pretty devastating news. It isn’t very surprising, yet it still puts a knot in my stomach. I don’t know what this spells for the future, but it is a call to action. We need to make real changes before we lose the majority of life on our planet. As far as birds are concerned, we can do small things like provide food in feeders and put up nest boxes. The hardest change will be to elect politicians who care about the environment and non-human species as much as we do. It is possible to make your vote count by being present and organizing. This study doesn’t have to be a sad ending.
We can rewrite history together.