Birds in Crisis: How One Bill Can Help Our Nation’s Winged Wonders

Can we fathom a world without bird song? A major study released today in the journal Science shows bird numbers plummeting across forests, grasslands, waterways, and backyards of North America, which is a cumulative loss of nearly three billion birds since 1970. Today’s grim news from the State of the Birds 2019 highlights the need for the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2019

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will direct nearly $1.4 billion annually to states and tribes to reverse alarming declines of birds and other wildlife at risk. Passing this innovative conservation legislation will prevent wildlife from becoming endangered, leading to a tremendous payoff and savings for states and a boost to birding eco-tourism. The loss of birds and unraveling of our ecosystems imperils our world’s biodiversity and our own survival.

The Act would support state wildlife agencies in implementing their State Wildlife Action plans to  tackle habitat loss and degradation that drive bird declines.

Protecting and restoring wildlife habitat won’t just help birds: this kind of investment in our natural infrastructure will help provide clean safe drinking water, mitigate flooding, foster pollination via recovered birds, sequester climate-disrupting carbon emissions, improve soil health, and safeguard our food supply. When birds are healthy, we’re all healthy. 

We’ve succeeded before and we will again in protecting birds—with your support! Why, for example, have waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) increased by 56 % over the past 50 years? Investments in conservation through legislation like the Pittman-Robertson Act and North American Wetlands Conservation Act helped support wetland protection and restoration across the country to bring these species back from the brink.

“The dramatic declines in bird populations documented in this study are deeply concerning, but not surprising. We are seeing similar declines in wildlife populations across North America and around the world.”

Bruce Stein, chief scientist for the National Wildlife Federation.

Now, it’s time to roll up our sleeves on behalf of birds we grew up watching and hearing from our window sills and backyards. Declining populations of familiar birds like meadowlarks, sparrows, juncos, finches, blackbirds, warblers and swallows are a warning sign not to be ignored. Their loss deeply impacts food webs and birds’ natural services, from dispersing seeds to controlling insects that devour crops and forests. 

Birds indeed are the canary in the coal mine warning us of an ecological crisis. Back when passenger pigeons darkened the skies, no one believed we could lose them all. Their population, too, fell by tens of millions and then there was only one. Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

It’s up to us to make sure this is one of our nation’s last extinction stories. Future generations should know of birds as creatures of the sky and trees and not as symbols of times past. 

For Martha’s sake, will you take 30 seconds right now to urge your Congressional Representative to be a cosponsor of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act? Together, we can pass a solutions-oriented, bipartisan bill. We can be the generation to ensure birds keep singing.

Published: September 19, 2019