Last year I had to fill the bird feeders daily. This year, this task is needed about twice a week. Over the past year, a variety of birds have frequently visited the feeders. I loved watching woodpeckers, cardinals, goldfinches, house sparrows, purple finches and robins. Crows, blue jays, starlings, and various sparrows were constantly emptying feeders and asking for more. Where are they? What happened to the birds that made their home in Cementville? I know a virus has swept across the country killing many birds. Most bird watchers have taken their feeders apart. I did. I only returned them in October. They have been carefully washed and laundered. Very few birds have visited Cementville this year. I miss hearing and watching the birds fly around the feeders. Hope they will come back soon. I saw a pair of Cardinals at the back feeder about a week ago. Alas, they must have been passing through. I did not see them again. Only the crows come for their dinner now. I love big black beauties, but I miss the songs of the little birds.
I’m not alone. The absence of birds is a problem for the bird lover community. The statistics are alarming. A study reports that since 1970, we have lost nearly 3 billion birds in North America. Several birds have been declared extinct. This is alarming news for me. Scientists indicate that agricultural practices, pesticides and habitat loss are the main culprits of these declines. It’s not just the birds that are disappearing at an alarming rate. In September, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove 22 animals and one plant from the endangered species list, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOW CONSIDERED EXTINCT. Species proposed for the extinct list are: Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Bachman’s Warbler, Madtom Scioto, San Marcos Gambusia (a fish), eight species of freshwater mussels, eight birds and a flower. from Hawaii and a bird and a bat from Guam. I don’t know most of these creatures. Yet I mourn their loss.
I know what a Bachman’s Warbler and an Ivory-billed Woodpecker are or were. They both perished due to the destruction of their habitat. Intensive logging has killed the ivory-billed woodpecker. The small fish, San Marcos gambusia, has died from overuse of water and depleted groundwater tables. Scioto’s Madtom, also a fish, was lost due to the build-up of silt from dams and runoff. Indiana is home to one of the mussels, the tubercle-flowered pearl mussel. Now, I have never seen one, but I am aware that they are of use in the natural world. Freshwater mollusks are the most threatened group of organisms in the United States. They live in the water that we humans depend on to exist. It’s not like there is a separate water system for humans to drink. The water from this plant recycles around and around. We all drink from the same cup. Let it flow for a minute.
I am saddened to hear that the State of Hawaii has lost eight birds and one plant. The state of Hawaii does not cover many square kilometers. To have so many creatures wiped off the face of the planet is criminal. I expect overdevelopment and expansion of agriculture to be the cause. How could we let this happen? A senior scientist from the Center for Biological Diversity said, “The tragedy will be magnified if we do not prevent this from happening again by fully funding the fast moving species protection and recovery efforts. Delay equals death for vulnerable wildlife. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been extremely slow in protecting the species. A 2016 study found that cash wasted an average of 12 years to qualify for collateral. We cannot let bureaucratic delays cause more extinctions. President Biden has called for more than $ 60 million in increases for endangered species. The largest increase requested in history, but the House Appropriations Committee reduced the request by $ 17 million. Extinction is not inevitable. It is a political choice.
Birds are considered an indicator species, representing the health of entire ecosystems. We have lost 1 in 4 birds in the past 50 years. According to a Smithsonian magazine report, 90% of the total loss can be attributed to 12 bird families. They include sparrows, warblers, blackbirds,
larks and finches. They are birds that can thrive just about anywhere. Forest birds, more abundant, have lost a billion individuals. If that doesn’t scare you, I’ll give up. That is why I am fighting against logging on public lands. They should not be disturbed by the forestry industry. There is no need to breach our forest for lumber. A forest is more than board feet of wood. One of my heroes, Roger Tory Peterson, called the birds “green litmus paper”. They are essential to the health of many ecosystems and their populations anticipate the health of entire environments. Imagine a world without birds. First of all, we would be invaded by insects. I would miss the melodies they sing early in the morning and when the twilight goes down. Who doesn’t love that crimson lightning when a cardinal settles in a snowy bush? Watching a falcon soar in the sky, hearing the call of sandhill cranes flying high above my head, these are some of the things that I would miss. Just like I miss sitting in my chair watching the juncos foraging for sunflower seeds on my little patio.
We are not alone on this planet. We share it with millions of creatures. Our future and their future is the same. As they perish due to the destruction of their habitat, so do we. We have the power to stop the destruction. It is a political question. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Do you know who is on the Indiana Natural Resources Commission? Do you know what they are doing? They make decisions that affect you. Ask your legislator if he knows this.
Until next time,
This article originally appeared on Evening World: The Bright Side: Where Are the Birds?