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Where Did All the Birds Go?

Most people have noticed a drop in song birds in their area, especially folks in the northern hemisphere who regularly put out winter feeders for the birds. Many people quickly turn to blame their neighbours cat for killing the birds, but in fact the majority of the avian population decline is due to human activity, not feline.


 Wikimedia Commons

The Sky’s the Limit

Most large cities have work crews that pick up thousands of dead birds in their downtown cores before 5:00am during bird migration periods. What is happening is that the tall office towers are leaving their lights on over night. The migrating birds are confused by the lights, in a behavior that is not yet fully understood. It would appear they become disoriented by the lights, and smash into the glass, sending thousands plunging to their deaths below. If not killed by the impact, and only stunned, the fall surely kills them. In some larger cities each office building may have hundreds of dead birds at its base each night throughout the migration period. Most city dwellers are not even aware, as the dead birds are picked up early before dawn.


Wikimedia commons.  Photo of deforestation in Guatemala.

Rain Forest Woes

Many birds have nesting grounds in the rain forest. As pressure for space, to raise cattle or other crops, increases, so too does deforestation. Millions of birds have lost their nesting grounds or their food supply, when they return to those nesting grounds, because of human activity in the area. Most rain forest beef is used to supply foreign markets, even chain restaurants, and fast food joints, in other countries. Some chains have discontinued using rain forest beef, but there is still a demand. Many other products come at the expense of the rain forest.

This is my own photo of a housing development where a pond used to be. 

Bye, Bye, Pond

Urban sprawl and the demand for housing has meant the total removal of many natural nesting grounds for ducks, geese, and other shore birds. Ponds are drained or filled in to make way for housing. Even if the ponds are kept intact, their shores are “cleaned up” and built around to appease humans, and nesting grounds are no longer assured for the native birds of the area. Worse still is that when these ponds are built around the home owners frequently pollute them with a run off of chemicals used to keep their lawns perfectly lush and green. Similarly forests are being cleared to make way for housing developments and often times peoples yards look more like football fields than like natural areas to welcome birds.

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User Comments
  1. Brenda Nelson

    On January 10, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Good article Mark.

  2. Clay Hurtubise

    On January 10, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Yes, we feed out birds year round. It is amazing how many we have visiting us.
    Our society will kill off many species, and some song birds are sure to be among the victims.
    Good article.

  3. James DeVere

    On January 10, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    One of my bosses refused to put a bell on her pet cat – as a way of alarming birds to its’ presence – because she thought the bell would deafen the cat!

    Also, introduced species of birds, like the Indian Mynah bird do a lot of damage but evicting native speicies from their nests.

    I like the new improved format and layout of your article.

    Best . j

  4. Jasin

    On January 10, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Great article, we never take responsibility for our actions.

  5. papaleng

    On January 10, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    a very interesting article. somehow we humans had to take the blame for birds diminishing population.

  6. nobert soloria bermosa

    On January 10, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    poor birds and other creatures,


    On January 10, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Excellent read here, thanks!

  8. Sotiris

    On January 11, 2009 at 8:18 am

    We are responsible for that situation! Well written!

  9. Mark Gordon Brown

    On January 11, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    In response to James, comment #3, very good point about introduced species, here in Canada and USA, we have a problem with the Starlings who were introduced from China, they are killing songbirds by laying their eggs in the nests of the song birds and their young are bigger and stronger so out compete the real baby bird.. thus it often dies. Again though, this is human caused, as we introduced the Starlings years ago.

  10. Ruby Hawk

    On January 12, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I notice we don’t have near as many birds as we used to.I have a feeder on my deck that birds never come to anymore. My son has bird feeders that birds flock to. I don’t know what the difference is. I’m afraid our apt. owners spray poison though I have never seen them do it.

  11. Louie Jerome

    On January 18, 2009 at 3:43 am

    I am from England and where I live we had serious flooding four years ago (I mean 12 feet of water in the City centre!). Much of the parkland (and there is a lot) was flooded for a long time. We lost lots of trees, so there are fewer birds. The local bird population doesn’t seem to have recovered.

  12. Stacey T Pollock

    On February 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Also with the increased weather changes we had in Holland last year, the birds could not handle the heat, many falling to the ground dying from fatigue. They are not used to the temperature changes with global warming as well. It also impacts greatly their natural time clocks and breeding cycles.

    Interesting aricle, thankyou for sharing.

  13. bremerton roofing

    On July 24, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Such an interesting article. It is very very sad and I think our climate changes and what we are doing to the enviornment is the trigger. Global warming is such a big factor. Great article.

  14. Pro

    On August 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    My first thought would have been cats with the neighbors cat leaving dead birds on my pouch. I know there are other variables that cause the over all population drop though.

  15. Ryan @ Size Labels

    On December 30, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I am here in Arkansas and remember when hundreds of birds fell from the sky. This happened a year and a half ago. Strange deal.

  16. Jianna Gonzalez

    On January 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Interesting blog, People need not litter so much

  17. drvaughandabbs

    On March 20, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Excellent information. This site definitely explains essential concepts to its readers. Thanks for continuing to write such wonderful articles.

  18. chris bohlender

    On June 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Kinda scary stuff….

  19. Luxury Independent Floors

    On June 12, 2012 at 3:38 am

    Very nice post and an informative site,thanks for sharing.

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