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The bees and now the birds
editor's notes

No saracasm or bumbling around with whatever passes for my sense of humor these days.


Last week there was a startling - at least to me - story carried by most national media in which scientists said North America has lost some 3 billion birds in 50 years.

Not lost as in misplaced, mind you. Lost as in diminished, as in by fewer than some 30 percent of what should be.

In my lifetime. Three billion birds. That’s 3,000,000,000, if I’ve got my zeroes figured out. Three billion fewer blue jays and cardinals and sparrows and wrens and blackbirds and orioles and so on. I find that infinitely sad. And awful.

The culprits?


That according to the American Bird Conservancy, which recently helped author a study that shows “the U.S. and Canada have lost nearly 3 billion breeding birds in less than the span of a single human lifetime,” according to a press release available on the group’s website.

It says the study didn’t look for causes, but “scientists agree that multiple interacting causes are likely behind bird population declines, and that habitat loss and degradation is the biggest overall driver. Other major threats to birds include invasive species, such as free-roaming cats; collisions with glass and other structures; and pesticide poisoning.

Climate change threatens to exacerbate threats from habitat loss and invasive species, as well as creating new challenges that birds must overcome.”

I have no problem believing that.

American Bird Conservancy, a nonprofit you can find on, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds), says it has an action plan to help, and if you care about birds then by all means check them out.

This sad news follows years of reporting that bees are facing all sorts of trouble, and that trouble continues.

In June, the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership reported another winter of losses to managed honeybee colonies, and major media has reported managed bees as opposed to those in the wild, obviously - dropped by 40 percent from April 1, 2018 to April 1, 2019. This follows years of similar losses in colonies.

The reason? Try us humans again.

Here’s a copy and paste from a July story on the Business Insider website: “The die-offs are happening primarily because insects are losing their habitats to farming and urbanization. The use of pesticides and fertilizers is also to blame, and so is climate change.”

While we still don’t know how the loss of birds will impact us, we do know we depend on managed honeybees to “pollinate $15 billion worth of US crops every year. Their decline has a major impact on our food production and supply,” according to Business Insider.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on anything, much less the science behind what’s happening to the birds and the bees.

But I’d say anyone who insists we humans’ wholesale remaking of this planet isn’t largely to blame for the bad things happening to it is probably making money off the idea, or getting paid by someone who is.

Still, if every problem started somewhere, so will every solution.

Even if it’s just making your backyard bird friendly, or cutting back on the use of pesticides and weed killers and putting up bee boxes, maybe if enough of us take better care of where we are, then maybe that alone will eventually prove to be enough.

Otherwise, there could well be a generation of humans in the not too distant future who might hear Jewel Akens’ 1964 classic, “The Birds and The Bees,”and not know firsthand what Jewel was singing about when he began - “Let me tell ya ‘bout the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees.”

PS. Sometimes I think this world will run out of everything but people and traffic and vinyl siding. Alas. Have a great week.

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