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where are all the birds?

 
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I saw something earlier this summer about how all the songbirds were dying. well I for one have noticed that all the cardinals, robins, blue jays are gone. I no longer hear the whippoorwill singing. I no longer hear the tapping of wood peckers. and there was a huge one that lived nearby, probably a pileated, the most beautiful wild creature I have ever seen it was at least 18" tall.  is this like a sign of some kind, or natures indicator of how polluted the earth is?  like the canary in the coal mine?
usually I have lots and lots of red cardinals all year long, they are gone. what I have seen are humming birds, wild parakeets, crows, buzzards and turkeys.
 
gardener
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huh. i don’t know, that’s not something i’ve seen or heard of in western nc. we definitely have a lot of the birds you mention, including 4 or 5 woodpecker species that i see regularly (pilliated included, and we’ve had a troublesome young one who thinks there’s bugs under the metal flashing around some of our windows…and may be right), and then some, except….wild parakeets? that not something we’ve ever had.
 
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Location: South Louisiana, 9A
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Insect populations have been plummeting for years. Birds need to eat.
 
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Location: PA, USA Zone 7a
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There was an article on the Audubon site about it a while ago, cautioning people to take down feeders: https://www.ctaudubon.org/2021/07/something-is-killing-birds-to-the-south-taking-in-your-bird-feeders-now-might-help-to-keep-it-from-spreading/

They advised you could put your feeders back up at the end of August, but they still have no idea what it is.
 
master gardener
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Location: southern Illinois.
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In my area Cardinals are fewer. Blue Jays are fewer. Blue Birds and Robins are invisible.
 
pollinator
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7 Simple Ways to Help Birds  according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

1. Make Windows Safer, Day and Night
Simple adjustments to your windows can save birds’ lives.

2. Keep Cats Indoors
Indoor cats live longer, healthier lives. Outdoor cats kill more birds than any other non-native threat.

3. Reduce Lawn by Planting Native Species
The U.S. has 63 million acres of lawn. That’s a huge potential for supporting wildlife.

4. Avoid Pesticides
Look for organic food choices and cut out some of the 1 billion pounds of pesticides used in the U.S. each year.

5. Drink Coffee That’s Good for Birds
Shade-grown coffees are delicious, economically beneficial to farmers, and help more than 42 species of North American songbirds.

6. Protect Our Planet From Plastics
91% of plastics are not recycled, and they take 400 years to degrade.

7. Watch Birds, Share What You See
Bird watchers are one of science’s most vital sources of data on how the ecological world is faring.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown

Mark Shepard the permaculture farmer and author of ‘Restoration Agriculture’ often talks about the phenomenal diversity and return of birds to his land. A thousand acre field of bioengineered corn with it’s pesticides and herbicides offers a bird nothing except a perch. A rich fruit forest of many layers offers an abundance of resources for a bird - a perch, food, shelter, nesting, nest materials and hopefully water. We get fertiliser on the boundaries, free insect control, the beauty of their presence and song and a sign that what we are doing is restorative.

North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970. The largest drop of 53% is in grassland birds. You can read the full report here.
 
master steward
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Early someone on the forum mentioned this, too. So I checked with Mr Google.  

In our state, Texas, they are saying that the birds are starving.

We have had a feeder out all summer.  The beautiful birds that we had are gone.

These birds:

https://permies.com/t/147320/Permaculture-Affected-Personal-Life

The only birds we are seeing are mostly the Scrub Jays.

The little birds like the Titmouse and vireos seem to be gone.

It is sad because we have gotten so much enjoyment from watching them.
 
Posts: 232
Location: Tip of the Mitt, Michigan
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Hi,  Just a thought but does all the bird food bought in the stores contain poison?  What does bird feeders do when the birds eat there as opposed to the natural food in the wild?

What about all of the tree species that have died out, (Maples, Elm, Pines etc...) or plant life that has disappeared?  The birds habitat is gone with the thriving ecosystem? Were the plant diseases caused by man or just in nature, and how can we help?

Watch what you do, and learn from the other side.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 3615
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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My fuzzy memory thinks this began happening near the time of cicada brood X emergence. Only this particular brood is afflicted with the 'zombie' parasites. When I discovered brood X did not extend to my area, I stopped actively following the cicada news for this year.

Brief article on the zombie brood.

I have not seen anything directly proving a connection between brood X and the bird illnesses.

In other birdy news, I had not noticed the lack of birds here. Though it may indeed be so. What I did notice this week, was the additional movement of birds in my yard. The cardinals are coming back through. That got to wondering, have there been fewer? I really don't know.
 
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Location: S. New England
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Now that you mention it - yeah, seems to be fewer birds for sure.

Haven't seen:
- any Blue Jays in a while.
- Cardinals & robins are becoming rare
- Owls have been rather quite this year
- woodpeckers should be more prevalent, giving the VAST amount of Oak die-off from gypsy moth caterpillers a few years back
-  Blue birds have been making a bit of a comeback in recent years around here, but haven't seen one this year. Reminds me, I need to build some nesting boxes.
-  chickadees, I haven't heard one in years. I miss their calls.
-  not as many crows or ravens

Have seen;
- LOTS of turkeys recently
- some hawks
- ospreys, if I go look for them
- a few buzzards
- a smattering of hummingbirds early in the year
- a couple of Orioles earlier this year
- along with a red-winged black bird.
- The Gold finches are enjoying my sunflowers and echinacia

As Jake mentions, bugs are becoming scarce. I remember having my windshield covered with them 30 years ago. Almost nothing on my car this year. Not as many buttterflys as years past, either.
I've read Marek's disease (viral shedding) could be a contributing facter affecting wild birds populations, as well ...especially with more people getting into raising chickens these days, there are fewer 'safe-zones' for wild birds.


 
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Location: Sedona Az Zone 8b
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I noticed changes here in Arizona too.   https://permies.com/t/165539/Bidding-farewell-friends-enemies
 
pollinator
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Well, whatever is happening, it's not happening here. We have birds a plenty. We were having issues with animals and insects being disoriented and behaving differently because of the smoke but thankfully that's all cleared up now.
 
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Location: Central East Coast, USA, Zone 7a
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Maybe some research into local phenomena would be useful? I too have seen plenty of birds this year, and still do. Cicada were all over the place earlier this year, so I've not seen any connection between those insects and changes in the bird population.

I'm certainly nowhere near an ornithologist, but I would suggest it's reasonable that there may be a temporary-or-longer change (up or down) in one's typical local bird population from time to time. There could be a lot of different reasons for this, some already mentioned.

Regarding the drop in insect populations: I suspect (again, with no authority or credentials) that spraying pesticides has a lot to do with this. It's likely the stuff sprayed in certain communities is an indiscriminate killer and doesn't stop at just mosquitos.
 
Anne Miller
master steward
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Stephen B. Thomas wrote:Maybe some research into local phenomena would be useful?.



Here is some of the research that I did, of course, this is geared for the SW:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/26/mass-die-off-of-birds-in-south-western-us-caused-by-starvation-aoe

And this is about decline from the freezing weather that I have talked about in other threads:

https://apnews.com/article/bats-birds-wildlife-southern-freeze-9070466a70d54ee6c84d060c9ea05005

A lot of the decline now may be due to migratory birds going back to Mexico and other places.
 
gardener
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Location: Central Indiana, zone 6a, clay loam
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Stephen B. Thomas wrote:Regarding the drop in insect populations: I suspect (again, with no authority or credentials) that spraying pesticides has a lot to do with this. It's likely the stuff sprayed in certain communities is an indiscriminate killer and doesn't stop at just mosquitos.


I suspect the same. And I really wonder if this had something to do with the mysterious bird deaths that were occurring in so many states. From my understanding, younger birds (nestlings and fledglings) were most affected. Which happen to be the ones who would eat the most insects... I wonder if people increased their spraying pesticides in anticipation of the cicadas? Or if the usual spraying for mosquitos has just hit a tipping point? Yet in all of the reporting I saw about the mysterious songbird deaths, I didn't see much if any talk about the possibility it was pesticides or poison of some kind.

I personally haven't seen a decrease in birds or insects where I live. If anything, there are more. But I also just let the plants go crazy and it's created a serious haven for them. So I suspect any that were struggling to find food elsewhere would flock here, possibly skewing my perception of the situation.
 
pollinator
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Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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Cats: in urban/suburban areas outdoor roaming cats are a huge issue. Most birds fledge from the nest before their wing feathers are fully developed. This means they spend 3 days to 3 weeks on the ground unable to fly. Further, more birds are ground nesters than tree nesters, so they are at risk from the time the eggs are laid.

Most (80+%) cats carry a bacteria, pasturella, that causes septecemia (blood poisoning) on their claws and in their saliva. A cat does not have to "injure" the critter it attacks, only "tag" it and that tiny puncture will lead to death within 3-5 days unless given the appropriate antibiotics.

Chemicals: bug spray, crop spray, lawn "care" products all poison bugs and can secondarily poison animals that eat them. Further, this limits the available food sources as the insects are eliminated.

Climate change: drought, fire and a simple few degrees change in temperature can seriously affect food sources and breeding. Lack of food means fewer viable eggs, survivors and fewer clutches in a season.

Sadly, feeders are now almost necessary in some zones. Where I am on the Wet Coast many are lamenting the massive drop in songbirds, one in particular is the Goldfinch. I discovered they rely on a particular ctepillar (Cinnabar moth) that only lays eggs on a specific "weed" plant (tansy or ragweed...can't remember) of which the wild areas of our small half acre are loaded with. Further, they are a ground nester, that makes them doubly vulnerable. My cat proof yard appears to suit them as we have dozens of them whilst a friends 80 acres five minutes away has not had them for years.

When Covid arrived, knowing we would be home A LOT I invested heavily into seed and hummingbird feeders stocked with a variety of food for the various birds. Dried mealworms and black oil (in shell) sunflower for the Chestnut backed chickadees and nuthatches; sunflower chips and nyger for the finches; generic wildbird seed for the sparrows and suet with bugs for the Downy woodpeckers and over a dozen nest boxes.  I was quite surprised to see birds feeding the seed TO their hatchlings and nestlings as I was under the impression the young were fed only bugs.

I am now very fortunate to now have entire families at the feeders - flighted youngsters begging to be fed! The hummer population has soared and our transient Rufous stayed at least 6wks longer than usual (so far) - I have to wonder if the high temps or forest fires on the migration path through the US has delayed them.

I have absolutely seen an explosion in my micro bird sanctuary. I can only assume it is the combination of a cat free Zone, along with the pond, feeding stations and nest boxes... Specifically the Downy Woodpecker and Nuthatches who used to be seen a few times a week are now seen multiple times a day and more often than not, IN multiples; not just the odd one here or there.

Interestingly, although they have no access to the bird feeders, we also now have squirrels too!
 
pollinator
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I dunno, it seemed noticeably eerie and quiet earlier, I assume due to the drought. But now the yard is almost ridiculously alive with robins, blue jays, late hatches of downy/hairy woodpeckers and white throated sparrows, and just about any of our littler buddies you care to name -- juncos, pine siskins, goldfinches, flycatchers, chickadees, various nuthatches ... all feasting on the plants that fed our pollinators earlier, and enjoying our modest but rock solid reliable water source. It's a bloody racket out there, every morning. Yay!

Earlier, the barn swallows at my parents' place made it back (whew!) plus tree swallows and tons of purple martens.
 
Posts: 14
Location: MD Eastern Shore, Zone 7B
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I haven't been seeing as many birds because I stopped putting feeders out per MD DNR recommendations. I still see woodpeckers in and around the pecan trees in my backyard, and there are a pair of mourning doves in my garden every morning right as the sun comes up. The hummingbirds are still around, squabbling as always, though they should be moving south pretty soon.

We had an unusual number of blue jays last winter and into the spring, but they disappeared again when the weather warmed up. I haven't seen any yet this fall but it's been pretty warm still, we had temps in the 90s F a few days ago.

I have noticed that the starlings are already starting to gather, which I normally don't see until a bit later in the fall. I'm wondering if that means we'll be in for a colder winter this year.
 
gardener
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Perhaps we're seeing a wave of starvation due to weather from the past year? Wasn't there a polar vortex event as well as a lot of flooding last winter/spring? Perhaps that causes an imbalance in plants/insects surviving through the summer/fall, and now birds are suffering the consequences of that lack of food? Certainly domestic cats that are allowed outdoors has been shown to be a major killer of birds, so it could be a combination of factors putting pressure on bird populations. Hopefully within a year or two the population will rebound.
 
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I think there are many reasons, also depending on location. Forgotten threats are all the masts and antennas, which can also be very harmful to insects, and birds as well. Many experiments have been done on bees and mobile phones, or bees and masts, showing how very sensitive those creatures are to these kinds of artificial pulsed signals. The same goes to some birds. All this in combination with other factors such as  loss of bushes/hedges (the need to keep things "neat", the s c "tidiness disorder") and pesticides etc...
 
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I haven't noticed many changes in my area, but the sunflowers are a true weed on our property (interestingly, they do NOT show up outside the boundaries of our yard, even in the open foothill lands behind us though they're native here - life just seems to want to hang around in our yard as opposed to everywhere else nearby). The sunflowers draw in everything from sparrows and goldfinches to the wild turkey flock that now roams our property every afternoon. We're fortunate to have a family of hawks and a family of peregrine falcons who nest in the forested pasture next door, although I do occasionally lose one or another of my chickens to them (grrr....) Crows are plenty common, house sparrows and mourning doves are both in good supply and the magpies come and go. I plant various shrubs for the hummingbirds and we seem to have several take up residence here every year. We and our neighbor to the west have plenty of insect habitat in our pastures and I see every type of bee, fly, wasp and beetle feeding on our sunflowers. I also let our brssicas go to flower every spring and those attract bugs by the bushel. I haven't noticed a decline in birds around here, but maybe that's because I've planted a buffet for them plus we have plenty of mice and gophers all over the place to feed the predatory birds.
 
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I’m in the CT River Valley and I also saw a decline in the bird population throughout the summer. I too saw the Autobon notice urging people not to put up bird feeders this season to help mitigate the spread of disease.  We grow sunflower every season and leave them in the ground until the birds have stripped them of all their seeds. I was trying to decide if I should take them down earlier this year, but now I’m not sure I even need to. Usually by now the gold finches are flying around our farm at Mach speed, while weaving in and out of the gardens feasting on seed heads, but so far I haven’t seen a single one yet. I’m still holding out hope for them. 🤞It’s been unusually quiet in the wetlands out back as well.
 
pollinator
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Here in the great lakes flyway we still have s lot of fall migrant warblers, thrushes, and others passing through. We are lucky to be outside the reach of whatever the eastern bird disease was this year also.  We had families of finches and cardinals breeding in the yard.  So it is not all terrible across the continent.

Definitely I am worried about the overall long-term decline of songbirds, though.
 
pioneer
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5G is probably a big reason why you’re seeing this sudden drop in bird populations.
https://principia-scientific.com/unexplained-mass-bird-deaths-during-dutch-5g-experiment/
 
gardener
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We have more birds than ever.  The woodpecker was noticably absent for years was back this year. I have also seen many birds I have never seen before.  I was going to say we are lucky, but then I think maybe not. Maybe the reason we have so many is because the fires are forcing them to find new places to live.
I've never been a fan of bird feeders, it's cool to watch them, and kind of people to go to the expense, but I've always thought a feeder is like a neon sign for bird predators.  Seems safer to plant lots of beneficial plants and flowers.  Providing food spread out, not always in the same spot.  
We definitely need to pay attention to these signs.  Balance is important to keep our world healthy.  Loosing _______(insert birds, bee's, animals, plants, etc) upsets the balance in ways we can't imagine.
 
Mk Neal
pollinator
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Myron Platte wrote:5G is probably a big reason why you’re seeing this sudden drop in bird populations.
https://principia-scientific.com/unexplained-mass-bird-deaths-during-dutch-5g-experiment/



I've read mixed reports on whether 5g effects birds.

We have a 5g network, as do neighbors, it's a city, so 5g is everywhere. We still get lots of birds in the yard.  The fall migrants are coming through on the usual schedule. Seems not to bother them.
 
Myron Platte
pioneer
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MK, that’s good to hear. 5G is hard to pin down as causing or not causing any given effect because of the huge range of frequencies and power levels it can output. Again, I’m really glad to hear that there are places where the birds are doing alright. I wouldn’t know. I live in a country where 5G was banned, due to safety concerns.
 
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