Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sad news for peregrine lovers

The Seattle Times reported today that none of the peregrine (falcon) babies survived this year. The peregrines have been nesting atop the WA MU tower since 1994. They have successfully raised many babies. Just the headline
Falcon babies atop Seattle's WAMU tower all dead
brought me great sorrow. Ángel González, Seattle Times business reporter, has been following the peregrines. I have stood in that building and watched the peregrine baby cam in past years.

The death of these baby birds is not the only tragedy because the bird population has been declining for a very long time at an alarming rate. I did a quick search on Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, and I was sadly bemused by the hatred of her and this book that still bubbles up 46 years later. The idea that we have as many birds as we had in 1962, when Silent Spring first appeared is wrong. It is not just DDT, the chemical that Carson pinpointed in bird deaths then, but a lot of factors, including not enough water put out for birds. In my philosophy, the Earth should be a garden of wonder, but it has turned into a garden of terror for many, including the birds.

What is important about these deaths is that the death of birds and the overall decline of the world's bird population continues. Whether it is grinding along or accelerating makes no difference. I quickly looked for an article to share with you about this problem, and I found very few entries. The best continues to be a six year old article from National Geographic, published November 5, 2002, Quarter of U.S. Birds in Decline, Says Audubon by John Pickrell. There is a wealth of information on the National Audubon Society website. It is worth going there.

A quarter of all bird species in the United States have declined in population since the 1970s, according to a report issued by the National Audubon Society.

Of more than 800 native U.S. bird species, 201 are included on the group's Watchlist 2000, and 214 are on Watchlist 2007.

I do not have time to search further, today, for more information, but my sorrow for the peregrines is increased by my sorrow at the seeming lack of easily accessible information that is recent, concerning this.

The Watchlist 2007 is found here. Just because a bird is not on the Watchlist does not mean that it is thriving for no species of bird is really thriving. In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell discusses what happens when anything, good or bad, crosses a threshold and becomes epidemic. Has the greater population of birds yet crossed the tipping point into extinction?

What you can do. If you have a yard, put out water for the birds, especially if you are in a dry area or an area bordering salt water. Birds need lots of fresh water to survive. If you are in a desert or drought area, add all types of bird food.

Why this is important to farming. Birds are a natural pest control system. While many complain that birds eat grain and human food, it is bird food, too. My father always told me that the most important tithe that anyone could give was 10% back to the wild animals and birds. We have become so greedy that we will destroy everything and ourselves through our unkind farming practices.

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