Wednesday, April 30

Rutland (VT) Herald on Bird Populations

There's a headline from today's Rutland Herald which reads "Vermont's bird population has increased by 17 new species, new survey shows."

This sounds like a good thing, but when you read the article itself, the prognosis isn't so good. Some choice excerpts:

A new survey of Vermont's bird populations shows that the state has breeding populations of 17 more species than it did in the late 1970s, but it also raises concern about the future of some species.

  • The eastern meadowlark was spotted in half as many places in Vermont as it was 30 years ago.

  • The common nighthawk has all but disappeared.

  • Breeding pairs of four kinds of northern warblers weren't found anywhere. Vermont's first breeding bird survey helped establish the state's list of threatened and endangered birds, according to ornithologist Sally Laughlin, of Cambridge, director of the first atlas and a member of the state Endangered Species Committee.

After the loon, peregrine and osprey were put on the list, the state developed programs to protect them to the point where all three now have healthy breeding populations.

These are major issues. When bird populations decline dramatically, it's generally a sign of major environmental changes. When the Rusty Blackbird declines by 98% (see the photo: I couldn't find this bird in Vermont; I had to go to New Mexico to get a photo of one), it's a sign that things are changing.

So, yes, we have more breeding species in Vermont. These include the Tufted Titmouse and Northern Cardinal, both of which used to be uncommon in the Northeast. They're beautiful birds, and I'm glad I have the chance to view them, but it scares me that they climate here has changed to the point where birds that used to live a bit further south have become so prevalent in Vermont.

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