SUMMIT HILL, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Almost 1/3 of North America’s bird population has vanished since 1970. The question is… why?
An article recently published in the journal ‘Science’ recently reported an alarming statistic – the number of birds in the United States and Canada has decreased by 29 percent in the last 50 years.
“We’re not just talking about birds that are considered endangered or threatened, but birds that were once relatively common that people might see in their backyard or forest,” Susan Gallagher, chief naturalist at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center, said.
Gallagher says the decline is inadvertently caused by humans.
“Just to give you an example, American Bird Conservancy estimates one billion, and that’s one billion with a B, about one billion birds a year are killed by colliding with glass,” she said.
One billion birds are also killed by feral cats. Other non-direct ways people are affecting the bird population is with the introduction of non-native plants and pesticides that impact the insects birds feed on. Telephone and industrial wind towers also affect bird migration and can even cause some birds to be electrocuted. The Carbon County Environmental Education Center also is a wildlife rehabilitation center and Gallagher says the most common type of injury she sees is animals hit by cars.
“Very rarely do we just see birds that are sick with some sort of disease, or naturally occurring. Most of the animals that come here come because of some sort of man-made hazard,” she said.
Gallagher says the good news is that there is a lot a person can do to prevent further decline of the bird population.
“One of the best things you can do is to just maybe set up a bird feeder in your backyard, feed responsibly,” Gallagher said.
People can also choose to use organic food, or buy decals to help birds realize that it’s a window instead of a passage way to go through. There is also an phone app you can download from the internet, called ‘Songbird Saver’ that could potentially make a difference. It tracks where towers or other sources of lights that can disorient birds in migration are located.
“You find where these towers are and who owns and is responsible for those towers and you can encourage them to change over from a steady night time light to a flashing light at night. Can cut down about seventy percent the mortality of birds hitting into those towers,” Gallagher said.