By Tim Mann
Last month’s Skagit Flyer came out shortly before National Audubon’s updated study projecting how climate change will affect birds from now to 2100. The bottom line: “Two-thirds of North American birds are at increasing risk of extinction.” This news came not long after a report by other research organizations on the huge decline in North America’s overall bird population. These reports on a part of the natural world of special concern to Audubon members only add to the urgency of energetically addressing the climate crisis. Letters to the editor in the Skagit Valley Herald remind us that there are still those among us denying the signs and science and angrily opposing action. Let’s step around them and get on with it. Of the 604 North American bird species Audubon studied, 389 are at risk of extinction from climate change; that’s 64%. If birds are in trouble, you know that many other living things are as well.
National Audubon puts it succinctly: “Birds can’t fight climate change, but we can.” The Fall 2019 Audubon magazine has pages of suggestions, in case you needed more. This information is also on the National Audubon website: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/fall-2019.
The two large-scale, alarming studies prompted a message from a friend asking what Skagit Audubon intends to do about this avian crisis. Skagit Audubon is its members, and what this Audubon chapter can do is inform the members and urge them, each of us, to do what we can for birds and for the planet, remaining steadfast in the belief that our actions matter.
This friend’s message focused on something very specific we can do to make the developed world more hospitable to birds, though unrelated to the climate crisis: keep cats indoors. Why would this matter in the face of a 3 billion bird decline in population? Studies by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian found that cats kill 2.6 billion or more birds each year in the U.S. and Canada. Highly evolved predators, our feline friends are great hunters. They have a special advantage catching birds that didn't evolve in the presence of small felines. More and more people who love their cats but care about birds too and who don’t want their pets hit by cars or scooped up by Great Horned Owls, keep them indoors or restrict their outdoor time to “catios”. These screened structures exclude birds and confine cats. In the face of all the difficulties our developed world imposes on birds, this is one easy thing we can do. And if your community doesn’t have an ordinance against allowing cats to roam (e.g. Anacortes), contact your city councilmember and tell them you’d like that changed. See Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s “Seven Simple Actions to Help Birds” (https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/seven-simple-actions-to-help-birds/).
For 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.