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February 2020

Vol. 48, No. 1

Musings from the Blind Birder: Helping Birds: What Can I Do?

Martha Steele

The recent and widely publicized news of a nearly 30 percent drop in the number of birds in the United States and Canada—or about three billion birds—since 1970 gave me great pause. Think about that: a drop of nearly 30 percent in the number of birds. The study, conducted by researchers at several institutions, including the American Bird Conservancy, the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology, and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC), examined Breeding Bird Atlas and Christmas Bird Count data, as well as international shorebird surveys and weather radar data, for 529 species. The authors did not evaluate reasons for their reported declines but hypothesized that habitat loss may be the primary culprit with other factors that could include pesticides and climate change.

The authors reported on the loss of birds across the broad spectrum of families, with only waterfowl and raptors showing gains, which the authors attributed to the ban of DDT as well as government programs that have conserved large wetland areas. Grassland birds have been particularly hard hit, with a 53 percent decline overall in the number of birds in this habitat.

Beyond giving me pause about the loss of so many birds, it made me focus squarely on my own habits and inclinations on a day to day basis. What can I, one person in a sea of one billion people in the Americas where our birds live, do better to help address such a staggering loss of birds? Or why should I care?

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Our mission: to support and promote the observation, understanding, and conservation of the wild birds of New England.