A new video produced by the Cornell Lab or Ornithology is an inspirational call to action to protect North America's birds. It's message is clear, echoing the 2009 State of the Birds report released this spring: Our birds are imperiled by habitat loss, pollution, global warming and other threats, with one in three species in decline.
If that depressing news is familiar to you, or too much to take, turn off the sound and enjoy the footage: It not only shows birds rarely seen by casual viewers exhibiting exuberant mating displays, dive-bomb hunting tactics, serene grooming and feeding habits and fierce fighting techniques, but also illuminates familiar species in inspiring ways. Many are familiar with the red-winged blackbird, one of the first migrants to return to the Northeast each spring ... but have you watched its elegant wings flap in slow-motion as it takes flight?
No? Then, watch this video, then scroll down to see how you can help the birds.
Here's a recap of the results of the first-ever State of the Birds report:
For several years, groups like the National Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have been raising alarms about the declines in North American bird populations, based on broad surveys and long-term observations by scientists and citizen scientists.
This spring, the U.S. government added its voice to the chorus.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released the first ever comprehensive report on bird populations in the United States, showing that nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species and other threats.
There are two pieces of good news in the report. One is that Americans are engaged in the process of assessing bird populations, through citizen science programs like the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count. The other is that people have effectively reversed the declines in several species, signaling that there is hope for those now suffering.
But the threats facing birds are complex and diverse: Everything from habitat loss to global warming, and the migratory nature of many species makes conservation an international affair. Take the case of the red knot, a shorebird that migrates all the way from Tiera del Fuego to the Arctic and back each season, stopping along the U.S. mid Atlantic coast to fatten up for the rest of its flight. They feast on horseshoe crab eggs more than anything, leading to a long-term political squabble as conservationists have tried (with success, recently in Maryland) to limit commercial fishing of horseshoe crabs.
Or, there's Hawaii, where travel has only in the past several decades brought new threats to species that had evolved isolated on remote islands. Hawaii has more endangered birds than anywhere else in the U.S., but stopping their decline is a real challenge, given the ease with which new species are transferred between islands.
With gardening season upon us, it's a good time to take action to help the birds. The National Audubon Society and The Daily Green teamed up recently to provide 25 bird conservation tips anyone can do, including 15 tips for making your garden friendly to birds and other wildlife.
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