There was an article in the paper a few days ago talking about how the common birds of Washington State are diminishing drastically in numbers. Today they took the American Bald Eagle off the endangered species list, but unfortunately many of these common birds don’t have the glamour nor do they occupy public awareness as does the magnificent Bald Eagle.
According to annual bird counts and an analysis of breedng records, in the past forty years birds such as the Evening Grosbeak and the Bonapart’s Gull have dropped 97%! The Purple Finch populations have dropped 87%; the Yellow-Headed Blackbird 72%, and the Western Meadow Lark 60%. See this and related articles here. The reason most likely is destruction of habitat. For example as the prairies and open areas are built up the Meadow Lark has no place to live. Destruction of forests (see post of two days ago) and other habitats are also responsible.
For example, not only the the forests and prairies are disappearing, in Eastern Washington the shrub steppe prairies, wetlands and grasslands are also rapidly disappearing along with the species that depend upon them.
Of course the factors involved can be quite complex. Pollution and global warming no doubt is having an effect. As species such as the herring and crustacean populations of Puget Sound plumet it has an inevitable effect on the species on the uppper part of the food chain, such as the Bonaparte’s Gull. The delicate web of life is being torn and shredded with unpredictable effects.
One of the shocking things is that these are not the already endangered or rare species, but once common species that we see at our bird feeders. The disappearance of common species will have a much larger effect upon our ecosystems than if the problem involved only rare species.
Audubon lists some things that everybody can do to help.