The Birds are Disappearing

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Photo by Ray Hennessy.

The continents birds are disappearing at an alarming rate according to a new study in the journal Science. In the United States and Canada, bird populations have declined by 29 percent since 1970. That is a total loss of nearly three billion birds. The most loss has been seen in grasslands, boreal forests, and western forests, exactly what makes up the entirety of the state of Montana. Grasslands have suffered the most, losing a total of 717 million birds since 1970. The key culprit for these dramatic loses is habitat loss, closely followed by the use of pesticides. 

This study shows just how much we do not know about our changing climate. These staggering numbers and percentages surprised scientists throughout the world. According to the article in the journal Science, “Extinction begins with loss in abundance of individuals that can result in compositional and functional changes of ecosystems” and that is exactly what we are seeing today.

This is why the Montana Wildlife Federation’s attempt to certify the city of Billings and other cities throughout Montana as community wildlife habitats is more important than ever. With the decline of habitat throughout North America, it is still possible to make essential habitat in your own backyard or on your deck. Providing habitat for birds is easier than it sounds. All you need is food, a birdhouse, and a source of water. It is quite simple to build your own birdhouse or purchase one at a local store. Bird feeders and bird food including suet are great for birds, especially through winter. Creating a wildlife habitat in your own yard is a great way to take this issue into your own hands and do what you can to help mitigate the destruction of bird habitat and the staggering decline of bird populations. 

The Garden for Wildlife Program encourages community spaces, businesses, and at-home gardens to become certified wildlife habitats. In order for a garden to become certified, it must have food, water, cover, places to raise young, and it must use sustainable practices. One of the many sustainable practices that can be used is the avoidance of the use of herbicides and pesticides, which is the second-largest cause of bird population decline. 

Our grassland ecosystem here in Billings is on the brink of collapse, and so are many ecosystems throughout Montana and the world. Making a wildlife habitat in your backyard is a visible step you can take to help make a difference in our community, our state, and our world. 

Check here for more information about certifying your garden. 


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Alec Underwood

Federal Conservation Campaigns Director

Alec is responsible for developing and implementing MWF’s federal conservation advocacy and policy campaigns to protect Montana’s fish and wildlife. He spends most of his free time hunting big game and fly fishing Montana’s cherished trout rivers. He also enjoys backpacking, skiing, photography, and woodworking.