A startling survey of North American skies reveals there are 1.5 billion less birds flying about than there were decades ago. Some species’ populations have recently become threatened, while others are projected to be nearly decimated within the next 40 years. An array of factors, mostly human-induced, are responsible for the alarming drop.

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“It’s the death of a thousand cuts,” stated the survey’s co-author Judith Kennedy, of Environment Canada. “We’re really getting down to the dregs of some of these populations.” Numerous government, environmental, and university-based agencies combined to conduct the most comprehensive, up-to-date Partners in Flight survey, which follows trends in continental bird populations.

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86 species of birds were classified as threatened by habitat loss, climate change, and plummeting population sizes. These include the Canada warbler and evening grosbeak, whose numbers have dropped 92 percent since 1970. Even the beloved snowy owl has experienced a 64 percent dip. Logging of forests, pesticides in grasslands, and an overabundance of cats – who kill an estimated 2 billion birds per year – all contribute to the downfall of the continent’s birds.

Birds help human populations by gobbling up pesky insects and pollinating plants. Kennedy stresses the importance of making changes in our behaviors that affect native bird populations, stating, “It’s too late for us to worry when we’re down to the last few hundred.”

Via The Star

Images via Flickr, Wikipedia