Many of our favorite wild birds are in trouble. According to the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s 2016 report, 37% of the 1,154 native wild bird species that live in Canada, the continental United States, and Mexico are in urgent need of help; another 49% are in danger, and only 14% of species are thriving. Wild birds that live in the ocean and in tropical forests are in the most trouble, followed by those that live in coastal areas, grasslands, and arid regions. Helping them involves a bit more than hanging out a bird feeder or going bird watching on the weekends.
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Many factors are contributing to the decline in native bird populations, including habitat loss, climate change, pesticides, and collisions with man-made objects. However, the biggest common-denominator of the factors boils down to one thing: a shortage of baby (bird) food. Long-term survival of any species depends on raising the next generation successfully, and, even if a bird has plenty of safe places to nest, if the parent birds can’t find enough food for their babies to eat, the next generation isn’t going to make it.
For 96% of native North American birds (excluding waterbirds, which eat fish), baby food means insects, and lots of them. Loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation, changing climate patterns, non-native landscaping, and increased use of long-lasting insecticides are all contributing to plummeting insect populations, undermining birds’ ability to successfully raise their young. Climate change contributes an added twist: shifting bloom times and breeding times can contribute to serious mismatches between peaks in the food supply and baby birds hatching.
Keep reading to find out how you can lend a hand in helping ensure a stable bird population. Remember, you don’t have to do it all right now. Pick one or two things you can do, add just a few new plants, but do something: the birds will thank you for it.