Posted by: Dan | July 3, 2007

Deafening Silence of Songbird Decline

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Another book review has caught my attention, on an issue that I’m extraordinarily concerned with: the Deafening Silence relating to common birds in sharp decline noted recently. The review, of Bridget Stutchbury’s Silence of the Songbirds: How We Are Losing the World’s Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them, is rather to the point:

More than once lately, an elderly birder has complained to me about what he considered a personal affront imposed by the passing years. “I don’t hear birds the way I used to,” he reports. “I guess I’ll have to look into one of those hearing aids.”

Save your money, Pops. The silence isn’t in your head, it’s in the woods. Although there is a widespread feeling among conservationists that all’s not well with our avian fellow travelers, the biological community as a whole has been cautious about confirming a general decline in neotropical migrant bird populations. The dynamics of those volatile little animals, spreading their time between temperate and tropical regions and on extremely hazardous flights across the immense areas linking them, are extraordinarily complex. Now Bridget Stutchbury, an ornithologist at York University in Toronto, has doughtily pulled together some of the evidence and a discussion of root causes for an impending intercontinental collapse.

There are two groups of birds in decline – many migrants, especially night migrants; and grassland birds. A few are also being effected by global warming, by all indications. What to do about this? Well, that’s what I’m hoping to learn from Stutchbury’s book.


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