VANISHED: Three Billion Birds Gone

Staggering.

Unthinkable.

Wake-up call.

Global biodiversity crisis.

These are the words used to describe the recent survey results published in Science revealing that North America’s bird populations have decreased by 3 billion since 1970.

This western bluebird was successfully released after a fishing hook was removed from its beak.

How is Wildlife Images helping?

These vanished birds are actually some of the most common species such as finches, sparrows, and blackbirds. It holds true to what Wildlife Images sees as a vital role to rehabilitate native wildlife – no matter how common, or seemingly unimportant. “Working in the clinic, I see many of the species from this study on a daily basis,” shared Jen Osburn-Eliot an Animal Care Technician at Wildlife Images. Shortly after the study was published, we received a message from a community member. She explained that after reading the article by Science she would no longer wonder why we worked so hard to rehabilitate and release common songbirds.


Troubling findings…

Vaux swift moves into larger enclosure before release.

This study is the most extensive ever completed for the species which range from Mexico to Canada. Researchers examined a massive amount of data that covered 90% of the entire bird population. Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology’s Ken Rosenberg led the investigation, compiled from various bird count surveys and even radar imaging and which included 529 species, or three-quarters of all the species on the continent.  The primary reason associated for such a massive net-loss in the bird population is habitat degradation due to agriculture expansion and urbanization since in the last 50 years. Although, the authors recognize there are certainly additional, less defined, factors such as climate change, access to food, and cat attacks.

“Almost every animal that is brought in for rehabilitation is here due to human causes. Outdoor cats are one of the biggest problems for patients,” explained Osburn-Eliot. “I view my role here at Wildlife Images as trying to give back and make a difference to a few of the animals that are suffering – often due to humans, either directly or indirectly.”

Each year, many of the species highlighted as “high loss” are admitted to Wildlife Images.

 

“The results of this study are definitely a call to action. All bird species play vital roles in the ecosystem, whether through pollination and seed dispersal, insect control, or serving both as predators and prey to mammals, reptiles, and other birds,” reflected Theanna Hannon, an Animal Care Technician who works with Wildlife Images’ resident birds and mammals. “Even from an aesthetic standpoint, it’s difficult to imagine a world without songbirds trilling away outside,” she added.

 

How can you help?

Financially supporting organizations which protect and restore natural habitat, such as The Southern Oregon Land Conservancy; those that specialize in rehabilitation like Wildlife Images, or conduct research like the Audubon Society is a key way to be a part of bringing back these birds.

Stellar jay nestles down into a fresh nest in the baby bird room.

Large-scale efforts to protect and restore habitat are necessary to protect at-risk species, but there are also lots of ways for individuals to address problems that we see at Wildlife Images every day. According to Hannon, “regularly cleaning bird feeders can reduce the spread of disease, making a highlighter grid on windows can help prevent window strikes, and keeping cats safely indoors can protect vulnerable fledglings.”

 

Hungry baby swallow
Release of lesser goldfinch
Swallow patient during intake exam