Study: North America Lost Nearly 3 Billion Birds in 50 Years | National News


The U.S. and Canada have lost almost 3 billion birds since 1970 in what researchers are calling an ecological crisis.

New research, published Thursday in the journal Science, found widespread population declines across North American bird species. The population dips could have ecological, evolutionary and economic impacts, the scientists warn.

Researchers looked at bird-monitoring data set for more than 500 species in North America. The area has lost the equivalent of roughly 1 in 4 birds over the past 50 years. The most drastic population declines come from a dozen bird families like songbirds, which include sparrows and warblers.

Photos: At-Risk Species in the Trump-Era

PAGE, AZ - MARCH 22:  A rare and endangered California condor flies through Marble Gorge, east of Grand Canyon National Park March 22, 2007 west of Page, Arizona. Condor managers taking blood samples from the 57 wild condors in Arizona both before and after hunting season find that all 57 condors test positive for contamination by lead matching the isotropic fingerprint of the lead commonly used in ammunition, and that those levels rise significantly by the end of the season. Many of the condors become so sick that biologists must re-capture them for lead-poisoning treatments. Several condors die each year. Experts believe the condors are ingesting the lead as they scavenge gut piles left behind hunters because lead bullets shatter and fragment inside the kill. Officials in Arizona are encouraging hunters to use copper bullets instead of lead-based ammunition and in California a coalition of conservation groups have sued the California Fish and Game Commission in an effort to force a ban on lead ammunition in Condor ranges. The condors in the Marble Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs area easily fly as far west as Lake Mead, by way of the Grand Canyon, and to Zion National Park and far into Utah. With a wingspan up to nine and a half feet, condors are the largest flying birds in North America. In 1982, when the world population of California condors dropped to only 22 and extinction was believed eminent, biologist captured them and began a captive breeding and release program which has increased the total population to 278, of which 132 now live in the wild in Arizona, California, and Baja California, Mexico.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Some species like raptors and waterfowl have seen jumps in their populations, likely due to conservation efforts, according to the study.

The study did not look at potential causes for these declines, but researchers said the losses are likely similar worldwide, which suggests multiple factors could be at play. The researchers also paralleled the loss to a similar downward trend in insects and amphibians.

The crisis “reaches far beyond our individual borders,” study co-author Adam Smith said.

“Many of the birds that breed in Canadian backyards migrate through or spend the winter in the U.S. and places farther south – from Mexico and the Caribbean to Central and South America,” Smith said in a statement. “What our birds need now is an historic, hemispheric effort that unites people and organizations with one common goal: bringing our birds back.”

The study authors, some of whom work at the American Bird Conservancy, Cornell University’s ornithology lab, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and other groups, suggested strengthening bird policies, banning harmful pesticides and funding conservation programs.

A separate recent study published in the journal Science found that one of the world’s most widely used insecticides could be hurting the health of songbirds and delaying their migrations.

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