Birds in the United States and Canada Are Disappearing, New Study Finds


Some species of North American birds may be on their way to extinction, a recent study has found.

In a newly published report from Science journal, a team of researchers has determined that the total number of birds in the United States and Canada have decreased by 29 percent, or nearly 3 billion, since 1970.

Weather radar reports examined by the scientists also determined that the number of birds migrating has seen a steep decline in the last 10 years.

Some of the birds included in the drop off include warblers, blackbirds, starlings, robins, and sparrows.

In order to make these conclusions, researchers relied on the bird population surveys taken between 2006 and 2015, which were calculated by professional ornithologists and bird watchers, The New York Times reports.

Researchers estimated that there were a total of 529 species were factored into the surveys — including the 76 percent of North American birds — and used bird-watching records to estimate the population of each species dating back to 1970, which was the earliest year that presented efficient data.

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Though there were some species that increased in numbers, the majority of birds declined by great numbers — data that genuinely surprised some of the scientists on the study.

“We were stunned by the result — it’s just staggering,” Kenneth V. Rosenberg, a conservation scientist at Cornell University and the American Bird Conservancy, and the lead author of the new study told the NYT. “It’s not just these highly threatened birds that we’re afraid are going to go on the endangered species list; It’s across the board.”

When it came to examining the weather radar reports, the scientist team took data from 143 stations across the nation between 2007 and 2018, with an emphasis on springtime scans. Those results came back and indicated that birds migrating were down by 14 percent.

A graph illustrated by the NYT also shows that grassland birds have taken the biggest hit, with 717 million birds or more than 50 percent gone. Boreal forests and western forests were the next two habitats to suffer the greatest losses. Coasts saw the least amount of decline, while wetlands actually increased by nearly 20 percent.

In terms of species who had increased, bald eagles and falcons both grew by 33 percent, while waterfowl also saw a noticeable spike in numbers.

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Researchers have predicted that these major losses could be due to loss of nature, including climate change and habitat loss from modern agricultural development, as well as wider use of pesticide.

According to Hillary Young, a conservation biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who did not participate in the study, common bird species are incredibly valuable to the ecosystems and without them, could leave them in disarray.

“Declines in your common sparrow or other little brown bird may not receive the same attention as historic losses of bald eagles or sandhill cranes, but they are going to have much more of an impact,” she told the NYT, noting that birds often help spread seeds, rid the area of any pests, pollinate flowers, and regenerate forests.

Given this information, scientists and activists are now encouraging people to do their part and protect the bird species.

National Geographic suggests keeping cats indoors to prevent the felines from killing birds, making any glass around your home more visible to prevent a bird from accidentally flying into it, and discarding plastic bags and six-pack holders.

Experts also suggest being more mindful about the habitats people choose to live in — as to not disrupt the birds’ ecosystem — feeding birds in your yard or balcony, and avoiding chemical pesticides in gardens and flowers.