Wild Birds Unlimited Newsletter
~ For those passionate about birding and nature ~
October 2019                                                                                          Volume 10.19
Where have all the birds gone?
Dark-eyed Junco, species in sharp decline

Over the past half-century, North America has lost almost 30% of its entire bird population, or around 3 billion birds.  More than 1 in 4 birds has been lost.
That's according to a new study published this month in the journal Science by researchers who brought together a variety of information that has been collected on 529 bird species since 1970.  This stunning news signals a widespread ecological crisis.
Scientists knew that the population of some bird species were in decline but also knew that some were increasing.  Some thought that it might be a wash and that there might simply be a shift in the total numbers of birds moving toward birds adapted to living around humans.   Well, it's not a wash, it's not even close.
The effects of climate change, urbanization, the use of pesticides and loss of habitat have combined to be devastating to the birds in North America. 
To gather the information, scientists looked at data from long running bird counts like the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Study.  They combined that data with ten years' worth of data on migrating bird flocks detected by 143 weather radar installations.  The consensus seems to be that we are likely seeing substantial declines in our bird populations, particularly migratory birds.
 "Depressing but not surprising", is how Kristen Ruegg, a biologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins put it.
Ken Rosenberg, an applied conservation scientist at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., and the study's lead author, says results show that more than 90% of the loss can be attributed to just a dozen bird families, including sparrows, warblers, blackbirds and finches.
The report tells us that some of the common birds particularly affected include meadowlarks, dark-eyed juncos, horned larks and red-winged blackbirds, .  Grassland birds have suffered a 53% decrease in their numbers, and more than a third of the shorebird population has been lost.
Some bird populations have increased.  "The numbers of ducks and geese are larger than they've ever been, and that's not an accident," says Rosenberg. "It's because hunters who primarily want to see healthy waterfowl populations for recreational hunting have raised their voices."
The template for reversal of this trend exists.  Conservation works.  Hunters have proved it.  The website www.3billionbirds.org is a great resource to find out more about the study and what to do to help.  Spreading the word about what's happening to help raise awareness about this urgent issue. By making your windows safer to prevent bird strikes and keeping cats indoors.  Outdoor cats, according to some estimates, kill 2.6 billion birds each year in the U.S.  Less lawns, no pesticides and more native plants will help birds.  Providing food and water also helps as well as sing less plastic and generally paying attention to how we treat the planet as a whole.  
This quote about the study's findings from Cornell Lab director John Fitzpatrick and study coauthor Peter Marra really got my attention:  "A staggering loss that suggests that the very fabric of North America's ecosystem is unraveling.".

We can all take part in the effort.  Help spread the word!

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Providing Water During Cold Weather
Here are some tips for easily-and safely-providing water
 for wildlife during the cold months:
  1. Before the cold sets in, replace delicate solar or fountain birdbaths with sturdier, winter-ready water features. Because ice can cause cracks and leaks, concrete baths should be stored or covered in winter.
  2. Place baths in a sunny area to make them more visible to birds and to help keep the water liquid.
  3. While birds are unlikely to submerge themselves in very cold weather, you can help them stay dry and drink more easily by adding several stones to the bath or placing a few sticks on top that the animals can use as perches.
  4. Even during winter, birdbaths (as well as feeders) should be cleaned regularly.
  5. To keep water from freezing, consider adding an immersion-style water heater. More recent models will turn off if the water in the bath dries up.
    Eastern Bluebirds by John Kinney
    A group of bluebirds gathers at a birdbath on a snowy day in Burlington, North Carolina. Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant John Kinney.
  6. If using a heater, add a ground-fault interrupted circuit (available at hardware stores) to prevent electric shorts. Check that cords and outlets are sheltered from snow or ice buildup.
  7. As a homemade alternative to a heater, place a light bulb in a flower pot and put a small water basin on top of the pot.
  8. A simpler option-particularly if you have no outdoor electric outlet-is to buy several heavy-duty plant saucers that will not be cracked by ice and replace frozen baths with fresh ones each morning.
  9. Avoid adding glycerin to a birdbath as antifreeze; if birds ingest too much, it can dangerously elevate their blood-sugar levels. Glycerin solutions also may mat birds feathers, decreasing insulation at a time when the animals need it most.
Seed Cylinders 
Great Choice For Backyard Bird Feeding

Upcoming Events

Lahontan Audobon Society - http://www.nevadaaudubon.org/ 
Tuesday, October 8
 LAS Board meeting
Friday, October 11
 Field Trip - Caughlin Parkway and Steamboat Ditch Trial, Washoe
Thursday, October 17
 Birds & Books Reading/Discussion Group - The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson
Saturday, October 19
 Sierra Valley Expedition
 Field Trip - Rancho San Rafael, Washoe
Friday, October 25
 Empire Ranch, Carson county

Tahoe Institute of Natural Science
   Go to Tinsweb website for full list of outings 

Sat Oct 05 @10:00AM - 04:00PM

Sun Oct 06 @10:00AM - 04:00PM
Fall Fish Festival

Wed Oct 16 @ 8:30AM - 11:00AM
Cove East Bird Outing

Sun Oct 20 @ 9:00AM - 04:00PM
Truckee River Day
Nature Happenings

* Project Feeder Watch starts and extends until April, www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw
* Steller's Jays, the beautiful black crested jay of the mountain forests, may relocate to lower altitudes.
* The local Blue Jays and Western Scrub-Jays will squawk their resentment of the Steller's, as they all search for high-energy nuts and oil seeds.
* Pinon Jays, normally found exclusively in the southern pinon/juniper lands, may move further north in search of winter food.
* Pine Siskins may move in large numbers to lower regions, and will socially join flocks of American Goldfinches to visit finch feeders.
* Keep your hummingbird feeders filled and clean until you have not seen a hummingbird for two weeks.
* Peak of southward migration. Birds heading south include: White-crowned Sparrows, warblers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Green-tailed Towhees, Song Sparrows and Lincoln and Chipping Sparrows.
* Geese and ducks begin arriving throughout the region.
* Yellow-rumped Warblers are returning.
* Peak of fall warbler migration
* Orionids meteor shower is late-October.
* Leonid meteor shower is mid-month.

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