FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)– Birds have been on the decline for nearly 50 years and a recent study published in Science, shows populations of almost all birds are rapidly dropping. The research, compiled by seven different institutions, shows three billion birds gone from North America since the 1970s, or 29%.
“Three billion of anything is a large number and to lose three billion birds over my lifetime? That’s… that’s pretty alarming,” said Dr. Jacob Job, a research associate at Colorado State University.
Among the steep declines noted:
• Grassland birds are especially hard hit, with a 53% reduction in population — more than 720 million birds — since 1970.
• Shorebirds, most of which frequent sensitive coastal habitats, were already at dangerously low numbers and have lost more than one-third of their population.
• The volume of spring migration, measured by radar in the night skies, has dropped by 14% in just the past decade.
The study states that 90% of the birds in decline belong to 12 bird families, including sparrows, warblers, finches, and swallows — common, widespread species that play influential roles in food webs and ecosystem functioning, from seed dispersal to pest control.
Even before the study was published, Job wanted to draw more attention to problem and decided to take his research on the road.
He teamed up with National Geographic and created, Voices of a Flyaway; a collection of sound and images from birds and people across the nation.
Job’s goal is to show the connection humans and birds have to the planet and the challenges both face as the population grows.
He says he wants people to understand, a decline in birds is also bad news for humans.
“It’s not just a bird problem,” Job continued, “It’s also an indicator of our health as humans and the health of ecosystems that surround us.”
While the study points out a drop in the population to most species of birds, it found a few that are thriving.
Populations of North American ducks and geese have grown by 56% since 1970.
The solution to help the rest from becoming extinct? Job says it comes down to making sacrifices to protect the resources birds and humans both rely on.
“We all rely on clean air, clean water and places to recreate and recover in. Without those? We don’t do well either,” Job continued, “If we get people to understand that this impacts them and they can get on board with making those sacrifices? Then we can do a lot.”