Happy November, neighbor!
Are you seeing fewer birds in your neighborhood? I know I am!
In this episode, we take a look at what’s going on in the bird world. Are there fewer birds? Why is that? What can we do about it?
Chuck Darwin gives us two words that have to do with birds, humans, and some other species, Tito gives us some very weird bird facts, and Captain Jack tells us some tools birds use that we use, too!
There's a project PDF to go along with the episode that involves a craft project you can make to help birds. You can download the PDF HERE.
If you want to watch this episode as a video on YouTube, you can do that HERE.
Here are all the links for this episode:
Christmas Bird Count: https://www.audubon.org/conservation/join-christmas-bird-count
eBird App: https://ebird.org/home
Get the Weird & Wacky Planet series:
Get a FREE e-Book:
Why are birds disappearing here in North America? What can we do about it? Let’s find out starting…right now!
Hello, Planeteers! Welcome back to another wild episode of "Nature Just Got Real!" I'm your host, K.B. Carr, and today we’re asking the question ”Where are all the birds”? Birds are disappearing in large numbers here on the North American continent where I live. Scientists who study birds are called Ornithologists, and they are raising the alarm that bird populations are drastically dropping, Today, we’ll look at possible reasons for that and how kids and families can help. We’ll also look at a bird success story and what it took to bring this bird back from the brink of extinction!
But first, I want to say a big hello and thank you to our listeners in Germany, who again had the most downloads from outside the US for the last episode, although they narrowly edged out the UK, who was a very close second! The city that had the most downloads was Delray Beach, Florida here in the US!
Also, if your class is listening to this podcast, have your teacher contact me thru weirdandwackyplanet.com or go to the classroom resources page on the website, because we have some special resources just for you. That’s a new feature for this season as we go into more and more classrooms. Thank you all so much, for listening!
You can also watch this podcast on YouTube and possibly other places, and don’t forget to download the project sheet that goes along with today’s episode.
Now, let’s get started!
Today we’re talking about a critical topic: Why birds are disappearing in North America and how can kids make a difference.
Now, you might be wondering, "Why are birds disappearing in North America? Is this even a real problem?" The answer is a resounding yes. Birds are vanishing at an alarming rate, and it's something we all need to pay attention to.
So, what's causing this decline in our avian companions? There are a few key factors, and we'll delve into each one.
Habitat Loss: North America's landscapes are rapidly changing. As cities expand and forests are cut down for development, the places where birds live and breed are disappearing. This is a significant problem for migratory birds that rely on these habitats as stopover points during their long journeys.
Another reason is Climate Change: You knew this one was coming. Our climate is shifting, and this has serious consequences for birds. Rising temperatures can affect their food sources, migration patterns, and breeding seasons. It's a challenge for birds to adapt to these changes, and some species are struggling to survive.
And here’s something you might not think about: Window Collisions: Millions of birds die each year from colliding with windows. Just recently, in Chicago, over a thousand birds died instantly by slamming into a high-rise building that was built in the way of their migratory route, and that number doesn’t include the ones that were injured and may have died later.
Another reason is Pesticides: Some chemicals used in agriculture can have devastating effects on birds. They can poison the insects birds rely on for food, and cause issues with the strength of of birds’ eggshells. In the 1960s, it was discovered that there were no Peregrine Falcons left in the eastern US and by the mid 1970s, the western population had declined by 90 percent. What was happening to the Peregrine Falcons? Scientists found that a popular pesticide called DDT was causing the eggs of the Falcons to be thin and fragile, making them break. Falcon numbers fell to 12% of what they had been. In 1970, the Peregrine Falcon was listed as endangered under the Endangered Conservation Act. In 1972, DDT was banned and the Peregrine Falcon recovery projects began.
Today, Peregrine Falcon populations in these areas are now stable and their IUCN status is LC which stands for Least Concern thanks to banning this dangerous pesticide, and the Cornell University Breeding and Release programs were critical in the recovery of this species, proving that if we can undo the damage we cause, we can have more success stories like the Peregrine Falcon!
Now that we've covered the 'why,' let's talk about the 'how.' How can kids help save the birds of North America?
1. Educate Yourself: The first step is to learn more about birds. Get to know the different species that inhabit your area and understand their habits and needs. This knowledge will help you appreciate them more and know what to do to protect them.
2. Bird-Friendly Gardens: You can create bird-friendly habitats in your own backyard or community by planting native plants, putting out bird feeders, and providing nesting boxes. Birds need food, shelter, and a place to raise their young. Just like people do!
3. Citizen Science: Next month, the Audubon Society will host the 124th Annual Christmas Bird Count from December 14th to January 5th. This is a community event and you can sign up to join on the website. You can also download apps like eBird, where you can report your bird sightings along with other “Birders” (that’s a nickname for people who are bird-watchers by the way) and contribute to scientific research as an individual. Who doesn’t love that? Your observations in both of these programs can help scientists track bird populations and make informed conservation decisions. I’ll put the links to both these programs in the show notes so you can check them out.
4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Being mindful of your waste and reducing your ecological footprint can indirectly benefit birds by reducing habitat destruction and climate change.
5. Protect birds from colliding with the windows in your house: This problem is easily solvable with simple actions like closing curtains and blinds or putting up bird-friendly window clings or decals. I have a project sheet for you that shows how to make your own window clings, and I’ll have that link in the show notes.
6. Advocate: You can also be a voice for birds by supporting policies and organizations dedicated to bird conservation. Let your elected representatives know that protecting birds is important to you.
7. Spread the Word: Talk to your friends, family, and classmates about the importance of bird conservation. The more people understand the issues birds face, the more likely we are to make positive changes.
Now here’s a word from our sponsor-Weird and Wacky Planet!
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Ok, Now, here’s Dr Chuck Darwin with the scientific word for this episode:
For this episode, the words are Migrate and Migration.
Migrate is a verb that describes the action of moving or relocating from one place to another, often seasonally, in response to changing environmental conditions. This movement is typically associated with animals, such as birds, fish, or mammals, as they travel to find better food sources, breeding grounds, or more suitable habitats.
Migration, on the other hand, is a noun that refers to the overall phenomenon or process of this movement. It encompasses the entire journey and activities associated with the relocation, including departure, travel, and arrival at the destination. Migration is a critical survival strategy for many species and is often characterized by impressive long-distance journeys. Some Humans migrate to warmer climates every winter, earning the nickname “Snow Birds”. Isn’t that interesting?
Use the words Migrate or Migration in a sentence and impress someone with your genius!
Until next time, I’m Dr. Chuck Darwin. Cheerio!
Thanks, Dr. Chuck! We got a twofer this time! I’ll take it.
Alright. I wanna know how birds know where to go when they migrate. Here’s Captain Jack to answer that question.
Ahoy Mateys! In this episode, today’s Ask the Captain question is ”How do birds navigate during long migrations”?
Birds use a bunch of different tools and strategies to navigate during long migrations, One important tool is their excellent vision, which helps them recognize landmarks and geographical features.
Another tool in their navigation toolkit is the Earth's magnetic field. Many birds have specialized magnetoreceptors in their beaks or eyes that allow them to sense the magnetic field's direction and intensity. Like a kind of internal compass, it helps them maintain a consistent direction, especially on overcast days or when flying at night.
Birds are also known to use cues from the sun and stars, to orient themselves. During the day, they can track the sun's movement to determine east and west. At night, they use star patterns for navigation, especially during long-distance migrations.
And scientists think some species may rely on genetic knowledge passed down through generations. They believe that young birds inherit a genetic "map" of their migration route and destination, letting them make their first long journey without having done it before. Wouldn’t you like to have that advantage in math class?
Since most birds that migrate have specific routes they take every year, they are in danger of slamming into tall buildings that pop up on their routes between migrations.
I personally think that anyone who wants to build a tall building should have to submit a migration map study to make sure that the building is not on a migration route in order to get a building permit. I think humans need to think about other species living on the planet with them and do better. What do you think?
And, if YOU have questions for me, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m alwayyyys listening. This is Captain Jack signing off till next time. BuByeeee!
Thank you, Jack. Yes, I WOULD like to be born already knowing stuff. Especially Math!
Now here’s Tito with some weird facts about birds you may or may not have known. Take it away, Tito!
Birds are fascinating creatures, and there are plenty of weird facts about ‘em. Here are some quirky and unusual tidbits about birds:
The male superb lyrebird of Australia has an extraordinary ability to mimic various sounds, including chainsaws, camera shutters, and other birds' calls. That is a handy skill to have when you’re tryin’ to escape from predators, yeah?
There are way more weird bird facts, but I’m ending this here while I can still sleep! I’m Tito and I’ll see youse all next time.
You are right, Tito! Grizzly clawed birds MIGHT give me nightmares!
Ok, episode recap: what are my takeaways from today’s episode?
There are some seriously weird birds out there, Just saying.
Humans migrate, too, but for different reasons. I would also like to migrate during the winter. Maybe next year…
Birds use different tools and strategies to navigate during migration. And some of those are the same tools WE use.
Birds are in trouble. And if we don’t intervene, and quickly, we may someday only see birds in a zoo.
But there is hope. The Peregrin falcon story tells us that if we can discover the reasons, and make changes, we can turn that around and make sure that future generations can also become birders!
And that's a wrap for today's episode of “Nature Just Got Real." We hope you've gained a deeper understanding of why birds are disappearing in North America and how you can be part of the solution. Remember, I’ll put the link to the Christmas Bird Count website and the eBird app in the show notes, so you can sign up if you want to, and don’t forget to download the project sheet for this episode so you can help birds from colliding with windows at YOUR house. Remember, it's not just up to adults; kids can make a significant impact on bird conservation too!
So, go out and have a bird-watching or “Birder” adventure…(bird tweets)…in YOUR neighborhood!