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The helmeted hornbill was almost hunted to extinction for the red lump atop its head. Free use photo

Exploring Nature: Status of Birds

Sunday, July 1, 2018

All in all, the future for birds does not look especially bright.

One in eight species is in danger of extinction and 40 percent of bird species are in decline. One of my favorite avian creatures is among those in trouble – the Atlantic puffin, a most jolly little bird. Also seriously threatened are the snowy owl and the European turtle-dove.

What’s responsible for the swift decline of these birds Scientists tell us there are five major threats:

First, industrial farming; more and more land is cleared for crops and farmers utilize harmful pesticides and herbicides. Second, logging; twothirds of all bird species live in forests and as trees are felled, they lose their native habitat. Third, invasive species; introduced species kill birds, especially island birds – rats, mice, cats, dogs and even mosquitos all can play havoc with birds. Fourth, hunting and trapping; unfortunately, some rabid hunters think nothing of blasting away at endangered whooping cranes and the helmeted hornbill was almost wiped out by hunters who kill it for the horny red lump atop its head. And finally climate change; at least a quarter of the world’s birds are affected negatively by increases in worldwide temperatures.

I don’t want to be completely negative, because there is still hope. Many people are working to slow global warming; governments provide national wildlife refuges and state parks where birds are protected. And lots of regular folks provide food, water and shelter for their backyard birds.

So while the future may not look bright now, there is still time to turn things around.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666