North American birds on the decline
Nearly a third of native bird species - even common ones - are seeing
striking losses, says a survey.
By Mark Clayton
| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
December 02, 2004 edition -
Nearly two centuries ago, vast herds of buffalo were almost wiped off
the face of America's great plains by settlers. Today it's the prairie
chicken that's getting plucked.
Once plentiful like the buffalo, the prairie chicken was dubbed the
"fool's hen" because it was so easy to shoot. Even so, the delectable
but hardy species survived. As recently as the 1980s, healthy numbers
could be found "booming" their songs across the plains.
But a new survey shows that the greater prairie chicken species is in
trouble. Since 1966, its population has fallen 78 percent. Fewer than
700,000 individual birds remain. It's a fate shared by many species -
from the cerulean warbler to the chimney swift to the northern bobwhite.
In a striking trend that spans North America's key ecosystem regions -
grassland, shrubland, forest, wetland, and urban - almost a third of 654
bird species native to North America are in "statistically significant
decline," according to a first-ever "State of the Birds" report unveiled
last month by the Audubon Society...