Ecological Diversions and Global Warming Take a Toll on Birds
Changes Have Been Subtle Over Decades
For decades, we have seen subtle changes in climate. Some have paid attention to these differences, yet some have not, feeling that it was cyclical. Some winters were colder than others, and history repeated itself. To those naysayers, there is extensive proof out there. We can look at the sheer size of the polar cap fifty years ago and compare it to what is left now, and there is a marked difference.
This disparity has a great deal to do with the warming and the cooling of the earth and its ocean waters. That then spreads to lakes and tributaries, which it is doing now. The anomaly affects plant growth and protein food sources for our ten thousand avian denizens of the world. Having monitored my own Boomer Lake in Stillwater, Payne County, Oklahoma, I have noticed a warming trend of two degrees over a three-year period.
Nature Has a Close Connection in All Regards
So many things are tied together in nature. As an example, there are native species in different regions of the country, as well as the rest of the world. All these various areas support assorted animals and birds, but there is one distinction. The birds migrate, and must be sustained wherever they go. Again, it is a biological fact that they require certain foods for themselves as well as their young. Then there are birds that simply expand their ranges, like the Pygmy Nuthatches, and the Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees. When they overlap their ranges, we eventually have new species of birds due to natural selection and extended breeding possibilities.
Most adult songbirds are vegetarians, but the young are not. Why is that so? Young birds are growing rapidly due to the fact that many of them must migrate at the end of the season, so they require food that will provide a rapid growth spurt, and that is found in protein. Protein comes in the form of caterpillars in most cases. Other adult birds feed their young moths and insects, another form of important protein sources that vary with certain species.
Plants and Flowers at a Glance
Do You Have Only Native Plants in Your Yard?
Native Plants for Food Equal Balance
Getting back to the adults, their bodies require seeds for some, fruit for others, as a general example. The best way to help these birds that raise young in your part of the country is to provide native plants. As a general rule, most oak trees will support over five hundred varieties of caterpillars, a veritable smorgasbord. But the secret is, is that it is necessary to have native oak trees growing in your region. Warblers and chickadees require large amount of caterpillars for their young and themselves in the breeding season. If they can’t find them, off they go on the hunt for where they can get them.
Nature works in mysterious ways, but yet, it is finely tuned and on a very precise balance. This is why certain birds go to specific parts of the country, as they are able to procure the foods that they and their young require—native varieties. This is one reason why ranges are expanding, as well as moving northward. If the protein moves on for whatever reason, the predator follows.
Needs Not Met Due to Invasive Species
There are also times when these birds will leave an area, since their needs are not being met, like the Red-headed Woodpecker, which there was no problem locating this bird in Stillwater, OK, in 2012. What happened? For starters, this cavity nester was getting a lot of competition from European Starlings and the Red-bellied Woodpeckers for living space in dead trees and snags. There is also a loss of habitat due to building, and loss of food sources add another movement factor. In other parts of the world, poaching adds to that problem. A prime example is the Houbara Bustard that has nearly been eradicated in certain parts of Asia. It is rarely one item that causes the loss of a species.
Another problem to attack is invasive and exotic species like honeysuckle, specifically varieties from out of the country. What problems can these plants cause? For native birds, they don’t provide adequate nourishment with their fruit. The male Northern Cardinal will not have bright red feathers, which is a deterrent as a top quality mate to a female. The more colorful male will be chosen over him, as he is healthier and more fit, according to natural selection.
Proof Is Due to Cause and Effect
These plants also grow faster and denser, even before many cardinals are ready to mate, so they may be unable to build a nest due to the high foliage. If they happen to be early nesting resident birds, the nests are attacked by predators like crows, hawks, raccoons, and snakes. The parasitic cowbirds are also a problem, as they drop their eggs on cardinals to raise, and dispose of the original, natural eggs.
This will become a bigger problem over time, as it is a culmination of cause and effect, just like the eagle and the DDT problem in the early 1970s. As we all know, it took decades to recover the Bald Eagle over a five-year period of DDT use. We must adequately research potential problems before we settle on what we intend to do when it comes to nature’s delicate balance.
These are just a few problems that we must seriously look at and make an attempt to try to overcome. It has taken a century or better to put us where we are. With industrialization and ways to improve living, humanity has been caught up in "Keeping up with the Joneses."
Do we have a chance? What can each of us do to help this cause, and in turn, ourselves? Think about it.
© 2015 Deb Hirt