Before 1914, the Passenger Pigeon was named the most abundant bird in North America but its rapid extinction brought up the question as to how and why this powerful population met its demise. As noted in the research that was published in 2019 in the Journal Science by several authors about the decline of bird population, 12 species, including sparrows and finches, faced the biggest losses.
Andrew George, assistant professor of biology, spoke about the research on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. in Yates Hall, at the Sperry-Galligar Audubon meeting. The research team concluded that since the 1970’s, 2.9 billion birds have disappeared.
“My goal was to explain how they know that (birds have disappeared),” George said.
In his explanation, George mentioned Ebird, which is a site that allows citizens to input information about birds they have observed.
“This allows for information to go back to scientists and used to make decisions about conservations,” George said. “The study from last year came from everyday citizens.”
The national Audubon society and 3billionbirds.org has significant information about the study and are pushing for bird conservation. The Audubon society allows people to learn more about the many threats that birds face and donate to the cause in order to slow down the rapid decline of certain species.
In the research paper, the group specifies the challenges of slowing the loss of biodiversity due to factors like climate change, habitat loss and other human effects. The study also mentions how birds are very helpful for “environmental health and ecosystem integrity.”
“419 native migratory species experienced a net loss of 2.5 billion individuals,” the study said. Sparrows, finches, warblers, blackbirds, contributed to more than 90% of the total loss.
George also mentioned the importance of citizen projects which his own research team has been involved in several times in the four-state region.
Every year, the National Audubon Society holds the Christmas Bird Count where volunteer groups of birdwatchers give a census of birds in the western hemisphere. Projects like these are helpful to conservation and function like Ebird to relay information to scientists and people who are passionate about the cause.
George encouraged those that attended the meeting to continue to share their data through sites like Ebird to expand the databases and help track patterns in the populations.
Students like Xiemena Bogarin, junior in environmental engineering, attended the meeting. She liked how George explained the population decrease rate and how it is composed.
Bogarin mentioned that even though most of the birds lost were part of large populations, it is still concerning.
“Dr. George argued that it is probably more useful to group them according to type of habitat they use to better understand which ecosystems are changing faster and threatening bird populations.” Bogarin said.
The loss of biodiversity in North America has been an issue for years and the meeting along with its sources stressed the importance of conservation, citizen projects and research for all species.