Nearly 3 Billion Birds In North America Have Died Since 1970: "It's A Real Wake-Up Call"

Nearly 3 Billion Birds In North America Have Died Since 1970: "It's A Real Wake-Up Call"

The shocking loss of almost 3 billion birds over the last 50 years might be an indication of an ecological crisis said experts.

Upon conducting a study recently, scientists have found that the United States and Canada have lost 29% of its total bird population. The shocking loss of almost 3 billion birds over the last 50 years might be an indication of an ecological crisis, said experts. Ever since 1970 North America has suffered a sharp decline even in common birds like sparrows and blackbirds according to the study published in the journal Science by top ornithologists and government agencies.



Expressing concern over the staggering loss, the lead author of the study and a conservation scientist at the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology, Ken Rosenberg, said, "It's staggering." After viewing the findings of this comprehensive study, experts fear that some common species' might end up the same way as passenger pigeons, a species of birds which was so abundant that it's extinction during the early 1990s seemed impossible. 



In order to gather the most comprehensive study ever, these researchers have been patiently studying 529 species of birds for the last half-century in North America, reports CBS News. Due to the years of expansive research across the continents, the scientist has a lot of data to base their analysis on. After going over the data they found something that was completely unexpected. While scientists had previously believed that rarer species of birds would be declining and common species would be increasing in number due to their resilience, the opposite seemed to be the case.


"We expected to see continuing declines of threatened species," said Rosenberg. "But for the first time, the results also showed pervasive losses among common birds across all habitats, including backyard birds." According to the study, since 1970 grassland birds including northern bobwhites and meadowlarks' population has declined by 53%, accounting for the death of 700 million adults in 31 species which were studied. Even shorebirds such as plovers and sanderlings have reduced by one-third of its total population. 


"There's an erosion of the numbers of common birds," said Rosenberg. Over 50 million birds have been lost from 19 common species over the past 50 years. In addition to this, the study also found that the drop in population was particularly steep in birds like warblers, finches, sparrows, and blackbirds. "When you lose a common species, the impact will be much more massive on the ecosystem and ecosystem services," said ecologist and conservation biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, Gerardo Ceballos. "It's showing the magnitude of the problem."



"We want this to be the real wake-up call," said Rosenberg. The total number of birds migrating in the spring has dropped by 13% between 2007 and 2017. And the greatest decline in these birds was recorded while they migrated up the eastern United States. Although researchers are still to narrow down on the exact cause for this mass decline, they consider habitat loss to be a major concern. Increased use of pesticide and climate change are some of the contributing factors to this decline says the study. 



 "This is being caused entirely by humans. Habitat loss, which is the primary driver here, is a human-caused issue," said the director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative and co-author of the study, Peter Marra.  The reason why we should be concerned about this decline is that birds act as an indicator of the overall environmental health. And scientists believe that this drop could be pointing towards a major crisis as birds play a huge role in controlling the spread of plants and insects.



"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," said Marra. "Can you imagine a world without birdsong?" Scientists hope that there concerning statistics would encourage others to pay more heed to birds. "It might stir needed action in light of the public interest in our feathered friends," said Paul Ehrlich, an ecologist for Stanford University. 



"The story is not over," said the president of American Bird Conservancy and co-author of the study,  Michael Parr. "There are so many ways to help save birds. Some require policy decisions such as strengthening the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We can also work to ban harmful pesticides and properly fund effective bird conservation programs. Each of us can make a difference with everyday actions that together can save the lives of millions of birds — actions like making windows safer for birds, keeping cats indoors, and protecting habitat."


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