“Since its founding in 1905, Audubon has always stood for birds, and science-based bird conservation has been our mission. Following that tradition, our science team recently completed a seven-year study of the likely effects of climate change on North American birds populations. The findings are heartbreaking: Nearly half of the bird species of the United States will be seriously threatened by 2080, and any of those could disappear forever.” ~Audubon
314 is the number of bird species at risk from climate change according to The Audubon Report. As a committed bird nerd I find this heartbreaking indeed.
I’ve been in love with birds my entire life. It was the little red-breasted nuthatch that piqued my desire to know birds. Who was that at my feeder? The ferocious and growly, stripy faced little bird took my love in a new direction, deepening my relationship to birds. In 1987 I began my quest to identify half of the birds in my field guide in my lifetime. This has led to many joy-filled days in my own front yard, weekends at the hawk-watch on Cooper Mountain, vacations all across the country, into Canada, Mexico and Europe. A Big Year of birding is on my bucket list. I keep notes in the margins of my original bird identification book, a National Geographic Birds of North America, the first of several types of field guides I’ve purchased and my favorite. It is derelict and tattered as well as outdated – much has changed when it comes to the identification in the ornithological world. My notes are sweet reminders of those first moments when I made an identification, beginning my relationship with a new bird species, where I was, the date and if anyone else was with me – A chronology of my 25 years of birding. I haven’t actually counted but I’m certain that at best, I am only to the half-way point of identifying the bird species in my favorite guide-book. Audubon’s study and the constant threat to the Boreal forests of Canada where more than 300 North American species breed and nest leave me somewhat discouraged – will I be able to see half?
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased. ~Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change
The wheels of change are in motion. Little has actually been done to mitigate the current climate conditions that are continuing virtually unchecked. While there are many climate change activists world-wide (thank you very much!) there are still those who refuse to budge from a stance of denial that is both divisive and dangerous.
The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) (2010) is a leading ranking of the environmental performance of countries around the world based on 10 policy categories and 25 performance indicators grouped under two key objectives: environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The 25 indicators and 10 policy categories provide measures of agriculture, air pollution, biodiversity and habitat, climate change, the environmental burden of disease, fisheries, and forestry. ~Global Sherpa
Iceland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Sweden, and Norway are ranked the top five counties on the EPI. The United States ranks 61 out of 155 countries. Not quite the “greatest country in the world” nor leading the way when it comes to this critical concern. Policy makers acquiesce to special interests leaving the populations of birds and frankly all life forms on earth at risk. This includes the human species.
Birds are joyful – color and song. Birds are medicine – each species offering a unique power. And birds are a vital part of a well-balanced ecosystem. Education and sharing my passion are two small ways I can be actively engaged with conservation, there is a roadmap to action. Elders benefit. Children develop patience as well as many other life skills by learning to bird watch. Cornell Lab of Ornithology reminds us in their Citizen Science blog of the importance a healthy habitat. In a time a severe habitat loss, planting native plant species is vital to the overall health and survival of the bird populations, a simple thing that one person can do for the long-term health of their local ecosystem. Shirley Doolittle of Tadpole Haven offers a bit of advice to those of us in the Pacific Northwest – plant Cascara, Indian Plum, Ocean Spray, Red Elderberry and ALL of our native conifers, the basis for healthy forest habitat she states. We plant native plants because they are good for the environment. Native plants heal damaged land, provide food and shelter for creatures large and small, filter runoff and cool streams. Indian Plum is a favorite of mine, usually the first to bloom here in the PNW in late winter – I have both a male and female to assure they fruit each year. I’ve seen the secretive Swainson’s thrush with a dirty elderberry face on more than one occasion – a very funny sight. Won’t you please find a native species grower in your locale and plant something for the birds in your garden?
There truly is little an individual can in the grand scheme of this scenario. Coming together as a community of concerned citizens for our own best interest and for all our brethren seems vital. Putting pressure on elected officials. Electing officials who will not bow down to the cronyism of our political system, who will take a stand for the people and Mother Earth. Talk about the realities. Attend to the depletion and to the dying as though in hospice. Being midwives to revitalization and sustainability. Revel in the glory of birds while we can, sharing their beauty and wisdom with others. I am keeping my binocular handy, getting outside for a look as often as possible. Offering what I can in action and prayer. I am grateful for the birds, grateful for the joy they are in my life and grateful for those bringing these concerns to the forefront. Wopila!
“There is hope if people will begin to awaken that spiritual part of themselves, that heartfelt knowledge that we are caretakers of this planet.” ~Brooke Medicine Eagle
~Aho Mitakuye Oyasin
The 314 species at risk: Allen’s Hummingbird, American Avocet, American Bittern, American Black Duck, American Dipper, American Golden Plover, American Kestrel, American Oystercatcher, American Pipit, American Redstart, American Three-toed Woodpecker, American White Pelican, American Wigeon, American Woodcock, Ancient Murrelet, Anhinga, Baird’s Sparrow, Bald Eagle, Baltimore Oriole, Band-tailed Pigeon, Bank Swallow, Barn Owl, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bay-breasted Warbler, Bell’s Vireo, Bendire’s Thrasher, Black & White Warbler, Black-backed Woodpecker, Black-bellied Plover, Black-billed Cuckoo, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Vireo, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Black-chinned Sparrow, Black-crested Titmouse, Black-crown Night Heron, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-legged Kittiwake, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Black-Throated Green Warbler, Black Guillemot, Black Oystercatcher, Black Rosy-finch, Black Skimmer, Black Swift, Black Tern, Black Vulture, Blackburnian Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Blue-winged Teal, Blue-winged Warbler, Boat-tailed Grackle, Bobolink, Bohemian Waxwing, Boreal Chickadee, Boreal Owl, Brant, Brewer’s Blackbird, Brewer’s Sparrow, Broad-winged Hawk, Bronze Cowbird, Brown-capped Rosy Finch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Brown Pelican, Bufflehead, Bullock’s Oriole, Burrowing Owl, California Gull, Calliope Hummingbird, Canada Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Caspian Tern, Cassin’s Auklet, Cassin’s Finch, Cave Swallow, Cerulean Warbler, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Cinnamon Teal, Clapper Rail, Clark’s Grebe, Clark’s Nutcracker, Clay-colored Sparrow, Common Goldeneye, Common Loon, Common Merganser, Common Poorwill, Common Raven, Common Redpoll, Common Tern, Connecticut Warbler, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Crested Caracara, Double-crested Cormorant, Dovekie, Dunlin, Dusky Flycatcher, Dusky/Sooty Grouse, Eared Grebe, Eastern Whip-Poor-Will, Emperor Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Evening Grosbeak, Ferruginous Hawk, Fish Crow, Florida Scrub Jay, Foster’s Tern, Franklin’s Gull, Gadwall, Gila Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Glaucous Winged Gull, Glossy Ibis, Golden-Cheeked Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Black-backed Gull, Great Gray Owl, Greater Sage Grouse, Greater Scaup, Greater White-fronted Goose, Greater Yellowlegs, Green-tailed Towhee, Gull-billed Tern, Gyrfalcon, Hairy Woodpecker, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Henslow’s Sparrow, Hepatic Tanager, Hermit Thrush, Hermit Warbler, Herring Gull, Hooded Merganser, Hooded Oriole, Hooded Warbler, Horned Grebe, House Finch, Hutton’s Vireo, Juniper Titmouse, King Eider, King Rail, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Laughing Gull, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Le Conte’s Thrasher, Least Bittern, Least Flycatcher, Least Grebe, Least Tern, Lesser Prairie Chicken, Lesser Scaup, Lesser Yellowlegs, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Little Gull, Long-billed Curlew, Long-billed Thrasher, Long-eared Owl, Louisiana Waterthrush, Magnolia Warbler, Mallard, Mangrove Cuckoo, Marbled Godwit, Marsh Wren, McCown’s Longspur, Merlin, Mexican Jay, Mississippi Kite, Montezuma Quail, Mountain Bluebird, Mountain Chickadee, Mountain Plover, Mountain Quail, Mourning Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Nelson’s/Saltmarsh Sparrow, Northern Fulmar, Northern Gannett, Northern Harrier, Northern Hawk Owl, Northern Pygmy Owl, Northern Saw-Whet Owl, Northern Shoveler, Olive Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Osprey, Ovenbird, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Pacific Golden Plover, Painted Redstart, Palm Warbler, Parasitic Jaeger, Peregrine Falcon, Philadelphia Warbler, Pigeon Guillemot, Pine Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, Pine Warbler, Pinyon Jay, Piping Plover, Polarine Jaeger, Prairie Falcon, Purple Finch, Purple Sandpiper, Pygmy Nuthatch, Razorbill, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Red-faced Warbler, Red-napped Sapsucker, Red-necked Grebe, Red-throated Loon, Red Crossbill, Red Knot, Reddish Egret, Redhead, Rhinoceros Auklet, Ring-billed Gull, Ring-necked Duck, Rock Sandpiper, Roseate Spoonbill, Royal Tern, Ruddy Turnstone, Ruffed Grouse, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Rufous Hummingbird, Rusty Blackbird, Sage Thrasher, Sagebrush Sparrow, Sandhill Crane, Sandwich Tern, Scarlet Tanager, Seaside Sparrow, Sedge Wren, Semipalmated Plover, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Short-billed Dowicher, Short-eared Owl, Smith’s Longspur, Snowy Owl, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Owl, Spotted Sandpiper, Sprague’s Pipit, Stilt Sandpiper, Surfbird, Swainson’s Hawk, Swallow-tailed Kite, Swamp Sparrow, Tennessee Warbler, Thayer’s Gull, Thick-billed Murre, Townsend’s Solitaire, Townsend’s Warbler, Tree Swallow, Tri-colored Blackbird, Tri-colored Heron, Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, Varied Thrush, Vaux’s Swift, Veery, Vesper’s Sparrow, Violet-green Swallow, Virginian’s Warbler Western Bluebird, Western Grebe, Western Gull, Western Screech-Owl, Western Tanager, Western Wood Pewee, Whimbrel, White-breasted Nuthatch, White-crowned Pigeon, White-faced Ibis, White-headed Woodpecker, White-tailed Hawk, White-tailed Kite, White-throated Sparrow, White-throated Swift, White-winged Crossbill, Whooping Crane, Wild Turkey, Willet, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Willow Flycatcher, Wilson’s Phalarope, Wilson’s Plover, Wilson’s Warbler, Wood Duck, Wood Stork, Wood Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-billed Loon, Yellow-billed Magpie, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow Rail, and Zone-tailed Hawk.