I recently watched the film The Messenger which, despite my small complaint of it being too manipulatively sad, perfectly wraps up the problems facing birds now and how important they are. I’ve learned so much on this trip, and The Messenger has helped me succinctly wrap up the largest issues.
1. Loss of Habitat
The combination of the (a) climate change we have caused, (b) direct pollution, and (c) direct destruction of long standing habitats that are not only favorable to birds, but often instinctively imprinted upon them as suitable locations, has left birds struggling to find suitable places for food and rest along their instinctual migrations. Some species are affected more than others, but this problem is certainly not exclusive to birds and the protection of their habitats will help in more ways than one.
2. Human Infrastructure and Urban Development
Much of our development is built on the premise of its being useful, practical, and affordable. However, its long term impact on our planet needs to become a consideration as we tip the balance towards an inhospitable world. Birds are heavily affected by (a) buildings and infrastructure they collide with due to being too reflective, (b) noise that interferes with their calls, and (c) light pollution that confuses and disorients them. Some species are affected more than others but, once again, all wildlife benefits from adapting our design to include the natural world instead of excluding it.
3. Pesticides and Insecticides
In an effort to produce higher yields for profit and make farming an affordable operation producing enough to meet consumption demands, we have used insecticides with little clear research. The non-organic coatings on seeds or spray used on crop fields has led to both direct contamination of birds’ bodies and indirect destruction of their protein sources (insects). This, all the while ignoring the beneficial nature of bird populations in controlling other pests. Some species are affected more than others.
As trivial as it may sound, urban cat populations are inherently invasive species. They kill potentially over a billion birds a year in the United States alone. While cats are an inherent part of human populations, the control of strays, controls placed on individuals harboring and supporting large numbers of outdoor cats, and the invention of “the next cat bell” to warn birds could all have incredible positive impacts on bird populations.
5. Hunting of Threatened Species for Sport and Use of Lead Ammunition
While hunting can be an incredibly lucrative support toward conservation and a traditional experience, respectful measures and use of copper ammunition could dramatically and beneficially impact migratory bird species.
The next 100 years will be very different than the last. We’ve got scientists dedicated to monitoring, voters that want green initiatives, the effects of our changed climate being felt by all, and the ability to track these birds and really pin down their most critical habitats.