Can you imagine Texas grasslands without the iconic, flute-like song of the Meadowlark? Sadly, some bird songs could be at-risk of going silent in North America's grasslands, forests, waterways, and backyard habitats.
A recent study published in Science, one of the world's leading peer-reviewed journals, found that almost 3 billion fewer birds fill the skies today than in 1970, a loss of more than 1/4 of U.S. and Canada's birds.
Losses have occurred in common species too and in almost every habitat type, with grassland birds showing the steepest decline. For example, 3 out of every 4 Meadowlarks have disappeared. But also 2 out of 5 migratory birds, like the Baltimore oriole, and aerial insectivores, like the Barn swallow, have been lost.
There were some bright spots in an otherwise grim study: waterfowl numbers increased -- thought to be the result of decades-long efforts to fund wetlands protection and restoration. Also raptors -- like our much-loved Bald Eagle -- thanks to conservation efforts for those species.
Infograph from 3 Billion birds website, Cornell Lab of Orinthology
Help bring birds back: The partners affiliated with this study have created a website with information about how individuals can help. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also outlined big steps government and businesses could make to take action for birds which includes passing the Recovering America's Wildlife Act. The bipartisan Recovering America's Wildlife Act, H.R.3742, is one of the long term solutions needed to provide adequate, dedicated resources for proactive wildlife conservation that will help recover bird populations (and other at-risk species). A New York Times opinion article on the bird study specifically mentions the Recovering America's Wildlife Act as a policy initiate that can help "invigorate underfunded state and tribal wildlife habitat conservation programs." According to the National Wildlife Federation "protecting and restoring wildlife habitat won’t just help birds: this kind of investment in our natural infrastructure will help provide clean drinking water, mitigate flooding, foster pollination, improve soil health, and safeguard our food supply. When birds are healthy, we’re all healthy." A 2019 State of Birds report supplement notes that "habitat restoration work generates $2.50 in local economic activity for every $1 invested and boosts the outdoor recreation economy". In Texas, this industry amounts to $52.6 billion annually in consumer spending, directly contributes to 411,000 jobs, and supports many small and large businesses across the state. Please take action today to ensure our birds keep singing, and that future generations receive the full benefits of healthy fish and wildlife populations. Ask your Member of Congress to help bring birds back by cosponsoring the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, H.R.3742 -- now at 125 bipartisan cosponsors nationwide.
Yellow-rumped warbler, Photo credit: Rachel Rommel