By Tim Mann
Fall brings return of avian abundance to Skagit’s bays and river deltas: so many ducks, snow geese, swans, hawks, falcons, bald eagles, great blue herons. This remnant of once much more widespread natural abundance did not just happen. Some once rare species are now common again thanks to protection, concerted effort, and investment. We’re mindful too of species in decline. The marbled murrelet could be gone from Washington within a few decades. Wintering Western Grebes and Surf Scoters were once much more numerous.
And other birds, ones not associated with the bays and adjacent fields? If you have a hunch that bird populations in fields and forests have declined, there’s now well-researched basis for that idea. On September 19th the journal Science published a large-scale study estimating avian loss in North America. Using multiple data sets to look at 529 bird species, the study found that since 1970 the number of North American birds has dropped by nearly 3 billion, almost a quarter of the total population. Declines have varied with type of habitat as well as species. Waterfowl and certain raptors are among the few increases, the very species so conspicuous in Skagit winters and that have received much conservation attention. Read more at https://www.audubon.org//north-america-has-lost-more-1-4-birds-last-50-years-new-study-says.
This news combined with National Audubon’s 2014 report projecting serious declines in birds from habitat loss due to climate change (https://climate.audubon.org/) paints a grim picture. Together, these studies should command everyone’s attention. The fate of birds is ours too. Their decline is yet another warning that change must happen. The biggest need is addressing human-caused climate change in a concerted way. Elected leaders and captains of industry must act, but we can all help reverse avian decline. Support protection of wildlife habitat by public agencies and land trusts, keep cats indoors, reduce bird/window collisions, don’t use pesticides, plant native plants. For more ideas: https://abcbirds.org/get-involved/bird-friendly-life/. Participate in conservation advocacy too. Audubon focuses on issues relevant to its mission “to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.” What kind of world do we want?
For information on national and Washington State Audubon conservation issues: https://www.audubon.org/conservation and https://wa.audubon.org/conservation/advocacy. For regional and local issues of special concern to Skagit Audubon: https://skagitaudubon.org/conservation/notes.