Common American bird populations have dropped sharply

Populations of 20 common American bird species have declined by at least half in the last 40 years, according to a new analysis from the Audubon Society. Hard-hit species include the whippoorwill, meadowlark, common tern, field sparrow, ruffed grouse and — our favorite to say — common grackle. Bird declines “reflect other things that are happening in the environment that we should be worried about,” says study author Greg Butcher. Many of the species inhabit open grassland that is being increasingly encroached upon by suburbia and large-scale farming; Audubon also points an accusing talon at climate change and invasive species. Northern bobwhites have been the hardest hit, diminishing by about 83 percent; the boreal chickadee is takin’ it from both sides, making not only the Audubon’s list, but a recent tally of species affected by the West Nile virus. Other species are thriving, including robins, cardinals, wild turkeys, and go-back-to-Canada geese. Ah, the gobbling and honking of spring!