About 40% of the 11,000 populations of unique bird species on Earth are on the decline. 12% are on the brink of extinction. The breadth of bird populations are widespread and diverse – and their decline is indicative of the status of all animal species across the globe.
Human practices such as urban development, agriculture, and forestry now deplete the natural habitats of many birds. Millions of acres of land are lost every year to these practices, and birds and other animals lose their homes as a result.
Birds that live in urban areas face a whole new set of problems. Collisions with buildings, cars, wind turbines, electric wires, and other man-made fixtures is the number one killer for birds in America. Building collisions alone are responsible for about 600 million bird deaths per year in the United States. Birds cannot see the a building’s clear glass – so they often fly into it. Fortunately, bird-friendly building designs have started to become more common and they are very effective at reducing bird collisions. Bird-friendly building design increases the visibility of the buildings by including colored glass, patterned windows, scaffolding, or blinds.
Pollution, poison, and pesticides account for about 72 million bird deaths per year in the US alone. These toxic chemicals get into the grass, produce, and insects that birds eat and cause them great harm or death. Rachel Carson’s depiction of these effects in her 1962 book ‘Silent Spring’ caused the US government to reconsider their use of pesticides such as DDT. Most of the pesticides used at the time were neurotoxins, poisons that act on the nervous system. Now, the agriculture industry uses different pesticides than the ones criticized by Carson. But neurotoxins are still present and still negatively affect today’s birds.
Conservation is paying off … in areas that prioritize it. Some bird populations are on the rise and some are still steadily declining. Which bird species survive is mostly dependent on what environment they are in. Wetlands get more funding for conservation so those bird populations are increasing. Whereas birds in other environments aren’t so lucky.
But there is good news. Conservation is working – and it helps protect the provisions needed for our birds’ survival.