For the Birds: One in four birds have perished - but you can help

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Wilson's Warbler looking for danger
Photo by Elaine Chuang
By Christine Southwick

Bird populations within the US and Canada have drastically declined by more than 2.9 billion birds across hundreds of species in just the last fifty years!

This list shows bird family losses:
  • 145 million FINCHES lost (including 6 out of 10 Purple Finches)
  • 182 million LARKS
  • 862 million SPARROWS (1 in 3 Dark-eyed Juncos have been lost)
  • 440 million Blackbirds (Red-winged Blackbird down one third of its population)
  • 618 million WOOD-Warblers (half of all Wilson’s Warblers are gone)

American Goldfinch feeding mate
Photo by Doug Parrott
What has caused these losses and what can we do to help change this deadly spiral?

The number one cause of these declines is destruction of bird-friendly habitat such as:

Large areas of habitat have been destroyed by large-scale farming which clears wide areas of all bushes, trees and hedgerows, including often filling-in inconveniently located wetlands 53% of our grassland birds have been lost as a result.

The clear-cutting of forests and roads bisecting dense forests has caused one billion forest birds to vanish since 1970 which is 29% of our Western Forest Birds.

Urban sprawl cutting down trees and paving over open fields needed for food, roosting and nesting.

Male Purple Finch
Photo by Christine Southwick

  • Keep as many trees in your yard as you can
  • Plant more trees
  • Plant native plants and shrubs
  • Don't use pesticides
  • Reduce lawns and fertilizers
  • Voice your conservation concerns

The second major cause comes from outdoor cats killing birds. 

Both feral and house cats kill birds.

“The total is large because of the sheer number of cats in the U.S. that hunt outdoors—up to 100 million unowned cats plus about 50 million owned cats that are allowed outside.”  -- (See article)


Keep your cats indoors or create an outdoor containment like a catio. This way, your cat can't kill any birds or small garden mammals. 

This step alone would save at least 50 million birds a year, if each loose house cat only killed one bird a year.)

Female Dark-eyed Junco
Photo by Christine Southwick

The third major cause is window strikes. 

Over 50% of all birds that hit windows die on impact or later due to brain/breast injuries. Up to 1 billion birds die each year from window strikes.


Reduce window foliage reflections.

Birds think they are seeing bushes and trees that they can use and fly into the invisible windowpanes.

  • Screens
  • UV decals
  • Hanging ribbons
  • Anything to break up the false views and save millions of lives.

You can help save birds by being proactive with these actions.

Read report and see graphs HERE


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