NOTE: This post is a bit of a downer. If that’s not your thing today, feel free to look at the photos and move on. But if you’re interested in nature, wildlife, and conservation – please read.
Back in March, I wrote this post about using eBird.org to try to figure out whether there are fewer American Avocets at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge now than there used to be.
I enjoyed doing the research and learning more about how to use eBird. But my conclusion at the time was:
“Is there a way to determine the accurate numbers? Sorry – I couldn’t find one. But I’ll keep looking and let you know.”
Well I kept looking and I’ve found some things to share. A while back, MK told me about a report she heard on NPR’s Fresh Air – Dave Davies interviewing Scott Weidensaul about his new book A World On the Wing. It sounded interesting and I was excited when MK got me a copy of the book for my birthday. I’m about a third of the way through it now. I like the book and the writing, although much of the data it presents is disturbing.
Starting on page 146, Weidensaul describes finding out about a blockbuster analysis published in the September 2019 issue of Science magazine: Decline of the North American avifauna (the article is paywalled, but if you sign up for a free account you can read it). I’ll quote here from the abstract:
“Using multiple and independent monitoring networks, we report population losses across much of the North American avi- fauna over 48 years, including once-common species and from most biomes. Integration of range-wide population trajectories and size estimates indicates a net loss approaching 3 billion birds, or 29% of 1970 abundance.”Abstract, Decline of the North American avifauna, Science, Vol. 366, No. 6461, 19 Sep 2019, pages 120 – 124
The article doesn’t speak specifically of Avocets, but does say that shorebirds “are experiencing consistent, steep population loss.” So I think that probably answers my original question.
And it raises many more questions. These losses are massive and the causes are varied and complex. They range from climate change impacts along migration routes, to land development. What can we do about it? I hope we’ll figure that out and make sure all of our decisions account for future impacts. Then maybe someday our grandchildren will see at least as many Avocets as we do.
*These two photos don’t have much to do with the subject. But since this is a photo blog I try to always have some in each post. I guess you could say they do illustrate the idea though – there are no birds in them.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And support conservation efforts, so we can still make some bird photos in the future.
©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved
6 thoughts on “Fewer Birds – Follow-up”
That is a fascinating book! It really highlights the miracle of bird migration in a very readable way.
Our job as stewards of the planet is to do what each of us is capable to promote conservation. In my opinion, that means educating our children and others as much as possible.
In our modern era, this is not as easy as it sounds. Unfortunately, there are those who will use any cause to gain power and profit and even the hobby of “birdwatching” is not immune to grifters. Not to say we shouldn’t strive to further conservation efforts, just a cautionary note on doing our due diligence on whom we wish to support.
There are some interesting reports concerning the adaptability of avifauna to environmental changes, including climate. Some species adapt better than others. Recent studies from the main breeding grounds of shorebirds in the Arctic show actual increases in some species’ populations over the past 20 years.
So, the news is a mixed bag for our birds, as one would expect in nature. Our job, as you point out, is to figure out the best way to respond to those species in or near crisis.
We have a lot of work to do!
Thank you, Ed, for continuing to research and to help keep us all informed.
Like you, I want my grandchildren to be able to visit our coast when they have grandchildren and say: “Look at that Avocet!”.
Thanks for commenting Wally. I agree with everything you said. I saw that info on the Arctic shorebirds – there will be winners and losers. But the overwhelming trend is not good.
We do have a lot of work to do and I hope that we start doing it.
Beeeautiful images lighten the mood!
I’m surprised individuals flying north to breed in the Arctic are doing better. Here in the UK, they’re worried about increased nest predation affecting shorebirds that fly north to breed, to sites which are less secure than hitherto. https://www.bath.ac.uk/announcements/decline-in-shorebirds-linked-to-climate-change-experts-warn/
I fear that few, if any, species can ‘thrive’ for long, given the pressures we exert. But the fact that awareness is increasing should, perhaps, give us hope? ATB, Rhona
Hi Rhona. We’re fortunate that some Arctic shorebirds are doing well.
Thanks for posting your link. It brings out another piece of this very complex puzzle. With enough information, maybe we can do more to preserve our planet and all the living things on it.
Heartbreaking information that we know and have seen over the years. I thank you for bringing this to our attention. It should be a real concern to all.
Yes it is heartbreaking, Dorothy. I’m glad though that we’re finally starting to understand at least a little of what’s going on. Perhaps we’ll be able to prevent worse consequences.