Connecticut Audbon Society

CT State of the Birds 2021: To recoup the loss of 3 billion birds, what is the most important thing to do now?

December 6, 2021 — Restoring a bird population that has fallen by 30 percent over 50 years will require a slate of conservation activities. There’s no time like the present.

But which activities are paramount?

For the 2021 Connecticut State of the Birds report, we asked experts around the country: What do you think is the most important thing to do now to stabilize and restore the bird population?

We’ve reprinting them below, and you can find them on pages 12 and 13 of the report, “Three Billion Birds Are Gone. How Do we Bring Them Back?”

For an introduction to this year’s report, start with “The Bird-lover’s Guide to the 2021 CT State of the Birds.”

Read the report’s Recommendations.
CT Audubon Society
J. Drew Lanham, Ph.D., is the Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University’s Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department.
“The loss of billions of birds seems many days palpable. For us to mitigate the losses science and conservation action are critical, but we must feel the losses in order to move most effectively against them. We’ve been here before. Just ask the ghosts of the Gone Birds — passenger pigeons, Carolina parakeets, great auks — and on and on –birds once so abundant no one believed it possible they could disappear forever. Now imagine naming the last American Robin. Think about Rachel Carson’s silence growing even quieter.  Yes, some of us feel these losses, but it’s critical now to enlarge the efforts.

“We must give serious consideration to what inclusion in the field of bird conservation entails. That means taking down our binoculars to truly see the wider field of view so that people of all hues and identities who’ve been ignored, see common plight with the “canaries in the coal mine”. Same air, same water, same soil, same earth, same breath. Winged and feathered or human being, we must find empathy between birds and ourselves.”
CT Audubon Society
Margaret Rubega, Ph.D., is a professor of ornithology at the University of Connecticut and serves at the Connecticut State Ornithologist
“Accept that in order for things to change, what has to change is us. For important structural change to occur we have to be willing to back policies that will change our lives. For example: the single act that will save the most birds, and will do it immediately, is to keep your cat indoors. Will that require a change for you, and for your cat? Yes. Are you willing to do it to save birds?”

CT Audubon Society

Scott Weidensaul is the author of nearly 30 books, including the 2021 New York Times bestseller, A World on the Wing. A Fellow of the American Ornithological Society, he is a field researcher specializing in migration, and co-founded the Northeast Motus Collaboration.
“The loss of nearly 3 billion birds in North America in the past half-century has many causes, and reversing that trend will require coordinated, concerted action on a host of fronts. But the group of birds in the most dire shape — grassland species — would also benefit most immediately and directly from a single approach: aggressive, large-scale habitat restoration.

“While grassland birds suffer from the effects of climate change, pesticide overuse and other huge, systemic threats, the biggest problem they face is a simple lack of suitable habitat. Over recent decades, while many groups of birds were declining, we changed the trajectory for waterfowl and marshland birds when we got serious about protecting and restoring wetlands. As a result, those species have largely recovered. We can do the same for grassland species if we apply the same political will, ample funding, creative approaches to working with private landowners, and dramatically scaled-up government programs like the Conservation Reserve Program.”
CT Audubon Society
Arvind Panjabi, is an Avian Conservation Scientist for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockie, and is based in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was a co-author of the 2019 Science article that documented the loss of three billion North American birds.
“While there are many threats ongoing to birds, I think the most important thing we need to do to stabilize and recover declining bird populations is to start addressing climate change in a significant way.  Climate change is affecting all corners of the Earth, even our most pristine and protected landscapes, and is impacting birds in both obvious and subtle ways, some of which are just beginning to come to light.  But we already know it will take many years to reverse the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, so it is critical we start addressing this immediately. 

“Most importantly, we need to quickly move toward a low-carbon economy and energy grid, and develop those in ways that minimize impacts to birds and other biodiversity.  Many of those solutions are already in our hands, we simply need to embrace them.  At the same time, we need not take our eye off the ball of our ever-increasing human footprint, and protect key areas for birds while minimizing negative impacts to them in our working landscapes, like our forests, grasslands and farmlands, where many bird-friendly practices have already been identified.  Now we need to bring those practices to scale by incentivizing them economically.  Birds have a direct economic value to our society, in many different ways, and it’s time we start paying for it.”       
CT Audubon Society

Desirée L. Narango, Ph.D., is the 2020-2022 David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow and a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is also an Early Career Fellow of the Ecological Society of America.
“The best thing we can do for birds is to get people to learn and care about their local species and encourage a new ethos of stewardship for local wildlife. Right now, habitat loss is the #1 cause of bird population declines. Managing yards, farms, forestry, and energy with bird-friendly features is a huge step toward creating sustainable landscapes that can support people and birds.”
CT Audubon Society
CT Audubon Society
Morgan Tingley, Ph.D., is co-organizer of the Connecticut Bird Atlas. He is an Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA and formerly of the University of Connecticut.
“The challenge of stabilizing and restoring bird populations requires many actions, not just one. To stabilize, we need to eliminate or lessen the forces that are currently reducing bird populations, primarily the loss and degradation of habitat and the increase in a built environment that is not bird-friendly.

“But to restore populations, we need to radically make this world more hospitable to birds, such as by vastly reducing wild-roaming cats, transitioning to bird-friendly windows, and restoring and recreating vital habitats such as marshes, wetlands, and native grasslands. And as if these challenges weren’t enough, we have a tidal wave of future impacts bearing down on us in the form of climate change – impacts so numerous and diverse, that we as ecologists have barely scratched the surface of understanding their impacts. So if we don’t want all of our efforts to stabilize and restore to be in vain, then we must also societally tackle the challenge of attenuating our current climate trajectory.”

Deborah Cramer is a visiting scholar at the Environmental Solutions Initiative at MIT. Her books include The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, An Ancient Crab, And An Epic Journey.
“Birds need safe passage along their flyways and enough food to eat to sustain their long flights.  Big problems require overarching solutions, but sometimes a single act can make a huge difference. To staunch the dramatic decline of millions of shorebirds, people in Connecticut can require their legislators and regulators to ban the take of horseshoe crabs for bait. Taking horseshoe crabs for bait deprives shorebirds of the energy-rich horseshoe crab eggs, essential to their migration.  Further, horseshoe crab bait is used to catch eel, which themselves should be listed under the Endangered Species Act, and whelk, which are overfished and whose numbers are dramatically declining. This one act could make a huge difference.”
CT Audubon Society
Leslie Carothers is a visiting scholar at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C. She is a former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and a former chair of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Board of Directors.
“Credible science showing the loss of nearly 3 billion birds in the U.S. and Canada since 1970 is certainly a wakeup call for anyone who thinks “biodiversity loss”  is happening somewhere else.  I recall learning as DEP Commissioner 30 years ago that the reduction of grassland areas in Connecticut was causing a decline in many of our bird populations. Habitat loss is not the only threat to our birds, but it is the biggest.

“I would like to see the northeastern state governors and their environmental agencies  work together with private landowners to develop plans to conserve and connect habitat on the scale needed to secure the future for birds and other wildlife in the region.  They have collaborated effectively on regional greenhouse gas emission control programs. I think addressing the challenge of biodiversity protection is another environmental issue where a regional approach could make a difference.”






Follow Us Facebook Twitter Instagram