By Science Outreach Intern Katrina McCollough
Issue Spotlight - Deforestation
Deforestation, the act of clearing a wide area of trees, is a MAJOR problem for all birds, but (like everything else) it seems to have hit migrating birds especially hard. It's not just the forests that are important to birds though, deforestation is only one small part of the larger issue of habitat loss. Habitat loss occurs when natural habitats are converted to human uses, this also includes agriculture (large-scale crops and ranches), urban development (our suburbs and cities), and infrastructure development (things like roads, dams, and power lines).
The US Fish & Wildlife Service summarizes the issue really well: “birds need essential resources for breeding, feeding, shelter, and survival, including access to food, water, and nesting sites. The size and connectivity of habitat (whether it is large and intact vs. fragmented and isolated) can dictate whether or not the habitat will meet certain birds’ needs. During a bird’s annual life cycle, habitat use may vary. For instance, many birds migrate south to other countries for the winter. They may stop to refuel along the way to enable them to complete their long journey. Others remain in a particular habitat during the entire year, or move only slightly north or south in elevation or longitude as the seasons change. Basically, migrating birds need almost a line of linked habitats from their starting to ending points, habitats that are good enough to stop, eat and drink, and rest temporarily in. These linked habitats are called migration corridors and are really important for multiple types of wildlife. Birds may be able to fly above it all, but that doesn’t mean they have it any easier than migrating herd animals.
Another thing you can do is participate in local habitat restoration programs. With COVID, a lot of events were suspended, but things are starting to pick back up again. We at SFBBO have our own tidal marsh and plover and tern habitat restoration programs, and if you are in the Bay Area two other great organizations are Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, and the Peninsula Open Space Trust. There are dozens of others in our area, and if you are outside of the Bay Area start with your county and look for any environmental associations or agencies, they will most likely have some type of volunteer opportunities. Look out for ‘habitat restoration’ or ‘weeding or planting parties’ to start getting involved. You can invite your friends and family and make a day of it. It's a great way to get fresh air, exercise, and to make a difference!
The Mission of Perry's Journey - A Message from the Illustrator
It’s important we understand that just because birds can fly over it all, doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by what’s going on down here on the ground. The population of North American birds has dropped by nearly 30% since the 1970s, that is a total of almost 3 billion birds. Gone.
Birds are incredibly important to the balance of our ecosystems: they are essential as pollinators and for seed dispersal, particularly for native plants, and they feed on and help control a variety of critters we consider pests like insects and rodents. Bird studies teach us about climate and the environment, and the birds themselves are key indicators of environmental change. And, most simply, birds are beautiful, and they provide us with music and joy.
The protagonist of this story, Perry, is doing his part as a bird, migrating to his northern breeding location to hopefully pass on his little brown bird genes. It’s all he can do. Perry’s Journey illustrates the important journey of birds like him across the globe, who are doing their parts to help.
Migrating birds are disproportionately affected because they need not just one habitat, but multiple habitats that can serve as stopping points along their journeys. We call these migration corridors and it’s important that they are protected: for the birds’ sakes as well as our own. Birds like Perry can’t control what happens on the ground, or in the water and air, but we can. During Perry’s journey over the couse of ten posts, we will go into some of the main issues facing not just migrating birds, but all birds, and what you can do to help. To support SFBBO's work to conserve birds and their habitats through science and outreach, please make a donation to our Spring Appeal!
Wingbeat is a blog where you can find the most recent stories about our science and outreach work. We'll also share guest posts from volunteers, donors, partners, and others in the avian science and conservation world. To be a guest writer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.