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Ecological Diversions and Global Warming Take a Toll on Birds

Updated on June 23, 2015
aviannovice profile image

Deb has degrees in chemistry, biology, and ornithology. Her primary focus is bird photography, & she researches heron behavior.

Climate Change Clues
Climate Change Clues | Source

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.

American Robin with Mulberries
American Robin with Mulberries | Source

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.

Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Chickadee | Source

Plants and Flowers at a Glance

Do You Have Only Native Plants in Your Yard?

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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.

Male Northern Cardinal
Male Northern Cardinal | Source

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.

Source

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.

Fledgling Bell's Vireo "What Will Become of Me?"
Fledgling Bell's Vireo "What Will Become of Me?" | Source

And So...

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

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Lawrence, it sounds like you're heading in the right direction. The Republican Senators in this country, have been adding riders to our animal/bird bills to make them so much weaker. As you know, Obama has given Shell permission to drill in the Chukchi Sea, even though it has been proven time and again that oil escapes 75% of the time, very poor odds. This country is going backward instead of forward, so many of us have been fighting--hard--to sign petitions, and Greenpeace has been protesting Shell adamantly. All we can do it keep working for the cause.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Deb

      I think we do see things a little differently in New Zealand as there is a conscious effort to turn back the clock and preserve whats still here.

      Over here there's been programs to eradicate pests to native wildlife on some of the islands around the coast and even set up "inland islands" to protect birdlife but ao much more needs doing.

      Keep encouraging us to "do our bit"

      Lawrence

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Any fruit that will go through the winter, even if fermented, is a bounty for birds. Seeds, suet, peanut butter, nuts out of the shell, dried berries like rosehips make it easier for birds to get through the winter. Thanks for your valuable suggestions.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Deb

      Awesome stuff here. I think we can 'turn back the clock' for most of these birds. All it takes is a little knowledge and willpower!

      Lets find out what the native species eat and just make sure we leave it on the trees over winter!

      The other day I was walking down by our river and saw a huge fruit bearing tree (they looked like apples but it was about ten meters tall) with fruit still on it (depths of winter here!) But the local birds were having a feast up in the tree eating and singing, almost as if they were saying thank you for the bounty!

      Kind of shows even something as simple as that can make a difference!

      Lawrence

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Mel, I HAVE to keep at this, or it won't go anywhere. People must realize the seriousness of the nature of global warming, as well as the fact that the polar car shielded a lot. We're in for a potential rough ride, so batten down the hatches.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      We are finally getting a little rain here in Southern California on the first day of July, which is a little strange. There are changes happening, and there is no telling what the impact on avian life is going to be. Keep preaching this gospel. Great hub.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Dave. Global warming will literally, affect everything under the sun.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Excellent article Deb, which will reach your army of followers and many many more out there who need to know what is going on,and how it has affected the birds and wildlife in general. Alas I fear our greed for energy in all its guises will thwart any serious attempt to bring climate warming under control. Voted up.Tweeted and G +

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thank you, Sanjay. We have lost more than the dodo. Other birds, like the Ivory-billed Woodpecker are gone, and I'm not even going to get into the plants and beetles. This is pretty serious business, as one form of nature connects to another. When one form is missing, it throws everything else off. On a good note, I finally saw a Red-headed Woodpecker at my lake yesterday! Since there was so much rain, many of the bugs and larva that they favor are now under tree bark once again, so that is good news.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 2 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      The plants and birds are related to each other. The extinction of one will entail the entail the end of the other. It was not far too back that we have lost Dodo for ever.

      Congrats for writing another Editor's Choice hub.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Alicia, I will always raise awareness for as long as I am able. These are things that can no longer remain under the carpet.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The photos are lovely and your message is very important, Deb. Thank you for raising awareness.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for having faith in my abilities, manatita. I am just beginning to wind up for the pitch!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Wonderfully written article, and yes, times are changing. Birds do have to adjust to survive, true. Don't really know the answer. Some things are man-made so our voices are necessary. Other aspects seem to be a slow and inevitable outcome if one listens to the scientist.

      The first picture is very well thought out. Do your best, my Sister. God bless

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Jackie, if our creator knew that humanity would do terrible things to the planet, then other provisions would have ben made, no doubt. However, it becomes necessary to let go of the umbilical cord, and let things progress as they do...I believe that humanity will be its own undoing with its vast interest in conquering others and war, which has been around since the dawn of time.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, writer, erosion is a major problem. If we can't hold the soil, then it is gone. It amazes me that the birds and other animals helped to plant the vast woods that this country USED to have. They are still trying to plant, so perhaps your neighbors will be a benefactor of their kindness...

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      What really stinks, Sha, i that we are powerless to tell people that they can't build on their own land. However, when the government won't even stand behind the Migratory Bird Act and leaving national parks pristine, we know there is a serious problem.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Whatever the problem is we need solutions but I was thinking today that surely God who saved two of everything in the flood will see to it the beauties He has created will be somehow saved. As before I am sure he will use man as His tool. I know many of us are willing. He gives us ones like you to make us aware.

      Great and important article.

    • vwriter profile image

      vwriter 2 years ago from US

      Great hub. Every summer I try and plant native flowers and as to fruit, we have fruit trees and berries on our land. Granted wildlife seems to get to them before we do, but that is okay. We have to also include wooded areas. We have been trying to replant our small wooded area with trees due to our neighbors selling their timber. Which is okay if they replace them, but they do not. Not only does it take away the homes of wildlife but can cause erosion.

    • vwriter profile image

      vwriter 2 years ago from US

      Great hub. Every summer I try and plant native flowers and as to fruit, we have fruit trees and berries on our land. Granted wildlife seems to get to them before we do, but that is okay. We have to also include wooded areas. We have been trying to replant our small wooded area with trees due to our neighbors selling their timber. Which is okay if they replace them, but they do not. Not only does it take away the homes of wildlife but can cause erosion.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      This is a powerful article, Deb. I get so tired of hearing those who say global warming isn't real. The proof is all around us for cryin' out loud! What you express in this hub is proof.

      I wish we could stop the destruction of natural habitats by builders. That's a huge problem, of which we seem to be powerless to stop.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Reverse it is going to be so difficult, but we can slow it. Perhaps we can reverse it to some degree, but in our lifetimes that is the biggest challenge. However, we can develop better habits. We can't sew up the ozone layer, but we can be more wary of the creation of greenhouse gases. There are ways to do this, but everyone must help.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      More and more of these ARE cropping up, Billy, so the word is closing getting out. But some make it more convoluted than it really is, so that's why the claim that it doesn't exist. That's why I use the polar cap as a starting point, as that way, everyone knows that is is smaller than it was.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great hub Deb, we need to alter our practices and reverse climate change so we can protect our feathered friends, and other creatures. Wonderful and important message and photos. Voted up.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What global warming? Don't you know that's just a Liberal ploy to gain more tax dollars?

      You know, of course, that I'm being a bit sarcastic. Excellent information, Deb. I hope to see more articles like this...streaming through the internet constantly, waking people up to the dangers to all of Nature. Carry on my friend.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, cc! Thanks so much for sharing, as it is so important to get back on track. Nature, as intended, was so closely connected with itself in so many ways, like a forest sustaining its animals with no other forces necessary. When a piece was removed, it was more difficult to continue the flow, like removing the leaves. In that case, no more soil was added to the mix. I think you see where I am going with this.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 2 years ago from Western NC

      Great hub and so informational. Your photos, information and message are all loud and clear: we need to do more. Beautifully done; voted and shared. :)

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Faith Reaper! I am doing what I can to try to help people realize that it is up to us to try to correct the mistakes made in the past. It is a long road ahead, and the more people that are reached, the more that we can do for our birds.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      You have given us a lot to think about, Deb, for sure!

      Informative and important hub. Your photos are always lovely.

      Peace and blessings always

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, whonu! Thanks for your vote of confidence. I think you and I are on a joint venture, in our own ways.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 2 years ago from United States

      Nice message my friend and one the world needs to heed. Beautiful pictures. whonu

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