From Our President: Where Have All My Birds Gone?

The Lane Audubon phone receives many calls from residents who ask that question. We also receive similar questions from our website contact page asking about usual backyard birds that are missing from their feeders.

Possible reasons for the lack of birds in any one location are many. We must then ask the person:

Has there been tree or brush removal nearby?
Has there been new construction in the area?
Has there been pesticide spraying?
Are there outdoor or feral cats in the area?

These and other factors tend to affect birds and other small-animal populations living in proximity to humans. Overall, the effects seem small, as people do not notice one or two dead birds in the bushes. But over time, the tally of animals killed due to these factors builds to a point that we no longer see “our” birds like we did in the past. Unfortunately, the demise of our bird populations is becoming evident. For instance, the results from the 2018 Eugene Christmas Bird Count showed very low numbers of Pine Siskins and Evening Grosbeaks, which are often winter feeder birds for many people in Lane County. At our home feeders, we have not had ONE Pine Siskin visitor. Purple Finch is another species we are missing at our home cylinder feeders. We only have one visiting this year. Typically we would have big flocks of them!

In the big picture, habitat declines are at large-scale commercial operations and somewhat out of our individual control. Our only hope is to remember that, ultimately the smaller habitat declines are due to individual choices we make. Make your own habitat bird-friendly by avoiding use of pesticides, keeping your cat indoors, and using plants native to your region. (These plants support the insects that feed the birds!) Even a small city property can support the neighborhood birds. Each person’s voice at a town hall meeting can affect the outcome of a town’s discussions about parks and open space and how they are managed.

Please provide safe nurturing habitat and advocate publicly for the birds that we all love. Each of us can make a difference!