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Our birds are in real trouble. Can we fix it? Yes we can!

By Micaela Jemison

Eastern Meadowlark (Photo by Gerrit Vyn)

Eastern Meadowlark (Photo by Gerrit Vyn)

The report card is in for the state of the birds in the USA. So how did we do? Certainly not an A+ or even a B, but that means there is room for improvement! What did the scientists find and how can we help? Read on.

Hawaii is the bird extinction capital of the world.

Hawaii is a paradise…of bird extinction. No place on Earth has had more bird extinctions since human settlement than the American tropical island state. Ten species of bird have gone extinct in the last 40 years and now the State of the Birds report has placed all of the native birds left, just 31 species, on the North American Bird Conservation Initiative watch list.

The lower Kalalau Valley, Koke'e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii (Photo: Alex Schwab)

The lower Kalalau Valley, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii (Photo: Alex Schwab)

So why did these birds disappear? Introduced predators like mongoose, cats and rats have played a big part. The mongoose was introduced to Hawaii in the mid-19th century in an attempt to control the large rat population in the sugarcane fields. However, since then the mongoose population has grown to large numbers without controlling the rat population. Instead these stealthy hunters decided to target much easier prey, ground nesting birds. But all is not lost as the people of Hawaii are fighting back, using predator proof-fences to keep these non-native predators away from the birds.

Feral mongoose on the island of O'ahu, Hawaii. (Photo by J.N. Stuart)

Feral mongoose on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii. (Photo by J.N. Stuart)

Keep Mr. Whiskers inside and save 2.4 billion birds!

We all love our little fur-babies but no matter how well-fed he is, it can be hard for Mr. Whiskers to suppress his wild side. You can help your feline friend stay on a no-bird diet by simply keeping him indoors. With an estimated 2.4 billion birds killed by cats in the U.S. each year, taking away the temptation to stray from his cat kibble diet is the biggest impact you can make on saving our native birds.

grumpy-cat FINAL

Grumpy Cat (Photo by

You can storm proof your home by saving bird habitat!

You never know when another Superstorm Sandy is around the corner, but if you have a bird sanctuary nearby you might breathe a little easier. Coastal wetlands offer the best resilience to rising waters, something that coastal birds such as the endangered piping plover desperately need. Require more convincing? Talk to the residents of New Jersey! They were certainly grateful to coastal preserves for holding back the sea surge and floodwaters that threatened their homes in 2012.

Piping plover chicks (Photo: Kaiti Titherington, USFWS)

Piping plover chicks (Photo: Kaiti Titherington, USFWS)

Hedwig’s family is getting smaller.

Many northern birds commonly visit the lower 48 states each year to migrate through or spend the winter. The most famous of these, the snowy owl, a species made legendary by the Harry Potter series, shift south across our borders only every few years. Scientists believe shrinking populations of snowy owl and other northern species may reflect changing climatic conditions in the Arctic. Many species are in steep decline and international efforts are underway to foster cross-border research and conservation to stop the widespread decline of our northern birds.

Harry Potter and Hedwig

Put it in the trash can! Our floating garbage is killing our seabirds.

Giant patches of garbage floating out in the Pacific Ocean are not only an eyesore but also a deathtrap for many of our seabirds. In one study, more than 90 percent of northern fulmars found dead on beaches had plastic in their stomachs. When scientists looked inside the birds, they found consumer grade plastics like toothbrushes and bottle caps instead of the fishsquid and plankton they usually feed on. Don’t let your garbage become a chocking hazard for birds, put it in the trash can!

This albatross died filled with plastic items it had swallowed. (Photo by Chris Jordan)

This albatross died filled with plastic items it had swallowed. (Photo by Chris Jordan)


By Micaela Jemison 



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