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Survival of the Species: Adaptability in the Twenty-First Century

Updated on July 4, 2015
aviannovice profile image

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

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Urbanization and Deforestation Equals Concrete Jungles

In the face of increased urbanization and lack of habitat due to deforestation, the tough bird that is a survivalist gets going where no bird has gone before. Over the past thirty years, a lot of wooded areas and open fields have disappeared, and displaced a number of birds. Some birds have gone elsewhere, but a good many have altered their priorities and adapted to this change. The indicators prove that these birds are thriving, as their counts have gone up instead of down, over that period of time due to the Audubon Christmas Bird Counts.

The urban birds of today are now living in the concrete jungles, and surviving quite nicely. There are Mallards walking around shopping center parking lots with their youngsters in tow, foraging. What will become of them? Historically speaking, many birds will raise their young in the same place that they were born, as it is familiar territory. These Mallards were pointed out to me, and the young were born and raised on the Olive Garden property in Lakeview Pointe Shopping Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon | Source

Adaptability Can Only Go So Far

Red-tailed Hawks have been living on balconies and ledges for the past twenty-five years on Fifth Avenue in New York City and raising their young. They have been hunting in Central Park, directly across the street from some of these residences, which hosts a beautiful fish pond, as well. The most famous of these hawks was Pale Male and Lola. A wonderful book by Marie Winn was written about these hawks and their legacy called “Red-tails in Love.”

Another example, in Wilmington, Delaware, a city of 75,000, boasts Peregrine Falcons as their residents. There are even nest cams keeping bird watchers abreast of their activities. This is the fastest bird in the world that can reach over two hundred miles per hour in its classic hunting stoop. Amazingly, even these birds have adapted to city living. They want for nothing, as everything that they need is easily within their range.

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Western Kingbird
Western Kingbird | Source

What Does the Future Hold?

Not only are these classic examples now living in the urban sprawl, there are other birds that are also doing the same thing, like the Ring-billed Gull, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, the American Kestrel, and the Western Kingbird, just to name a few of them. There are many other birds that are following suit, as well.

Why did this happen and what is the future for birds as a whole?

It is generally a survival instinct for many animals to do what they need to do in order to survive. Many of these tough city birds are handling both noise and light pollution, whereas their country cousins would flee in fear. There are birds like the Northern Mockingbird standing on light poles singing their hearts out at midnight, because their body clocks tell them that they should be awake. These birds have developed coping mechanisms due to where they were born and raised as a result.

Can They Cope With More Change?

In the midst of human disturbance, worldwide climate change, and ecological diversions, we will continue to identify the species that can cope with these problems, as well as those that will become extinct as a result of this unnatural habitat. We might be able to prepare them for some of the problems that they will likely face in the future, but there are some that will be unable to adapt, due to their DNA and lack of ability to survive these ordeals.

Birds such as the Great Blue Heron simply leave areas that don’t meet their needs for food or living space. They simply cannot adapt or adjust to certain foods that are out of their realm of comfort or necessity. Global warming is hitting some of these birds very hard, so their only way to survive is to go where they can obtain what is mandatory to continue the same quality of life that they have been enjoying for millennia.

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The Wave of the Future

Besides global warming, the latest challenge is drilling for oil, now in some of the most pristine areas of the world, like the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic. History has proven the devastation that oil spills have caused, and how easy it is to kill these animals, whose bodies simply cannot cope with carcinogenic poison. Now we are playing Russian roulette with even more delicate species, and I fear for the way that it will play out. Not only will it reach the birds, it will shatter polar bears, seals, and walrus’ lives. The wave of the future is in the hands of our administration. May they choose wisely.

© 2015 Deb Hirt

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Chantelle, since we know that there is a problem, zoos across the country have been trying to help to raise some of the babies that were born in captivity. There is also a lot of work going on in the climate change arena, and for those of us that are carefully monitoring water temperatures are assured that our work will help those birds and animals in the future.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 22 months ago from Chicago

      We live outside Chicago and frequently visit the Field Museum in the city. There is an exhibit there that show how many species are becoming extinct as you pass through. I don't remember the figures but they are huge (think hundreds not 1 or 2) and astounding as to how many animals are disappearing from Earth. What a tragedy.

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

      Hey, Peggy! A lot has happened over the decades to cause this, but adaptability will help birds and animals continue their lives. If they don't, they will quite simply, perish.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Many wild animals as well as birds are now getting more used to living in our towns and cities. As our population keeps increasing, some of this is inevitable. As to the other causes of which we can do something...it will take great effort to insure that their habitats remain secure. Interesting hub and thought provoking.

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

      Lawrence, I am so glad to hear that you are getting interested in your natural surroundings. That means that my job has only bean, as I will help guide you through lots of things, if you'd like. I am going to be getting to your rare bird story, most likely this weekend. I work long shifts Wed.-Fri., which gives me very little time for much else. Can't wait to see your story and learn more about your avian world.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Deb

      Your hubs are getting me to look at where I live in a whole new way! And I'm loving it!

      We have a man-made lake here. It was created when a swamp was drained for building on about sixty years ago, the lake was seen as a way if helping prevent flooding as well as giving a hone to the various species from the area.

      You have geese (Canada) Swans, Pukeko, Tuis and hundreds of others species thriving, and it has a walking track so we can all enjoy the lake and birds!

      Thank you for this hub. By the way check out the hub I did on some rare NZ birds

      Lawrence

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

      Thanks, Dave. All the better to educate folks with reliable data.

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

      Do you have any articles regarding this is your country that I could read?

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Deb, being in the hands of the administration[s] is the most worrying factor facing the ever increasing dangers to our planet. Birds over here have been driven to the cities for some years now,they include the Kestrel,Raven,Peregrine, gulls,even Kittiwakes are nesting in cities. Great article keeping our environment in the forefront of peoples attention. Voted up,interesting and very useful.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Foreign birds are seen flying to our rain forest

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

      Alicia, there's so many things out there staring us right in the face, as you know. The key is recognizing what we are doing, then correct what it is taken decades to cause. It is not an easy road.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is another important hub, Deb. Thank you once again for raising awareness of the situation.

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

      Chris, I wish I could have gotten there to be able to see all the wildlife that the area has to offer. Delmarva has a lot out there for preservation of wildlife.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      It is a beautiful spot considering the setting. Lots of litter ends up there by wind and water though. But it provides a safe place for wildlife and it is well used by people for walking, picnics, fishing and boating. It is affected by the tides from the coast up through the Delaware River. A person can only venture out in a boat two hours on either side of high tide. Sorry, I didn't mean to highjack the comments section to Philly, but your hub did apply to that location quite a bit.

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

      Chris, that is beautiful, I don't think I have ever seen twenty sandpipers together. I have never seen the refuge, just washed birds involved in the oil spill. I went by it on the way to Philly, but had never been there.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Deb, I remember that you told me once before that you had worked in the Heinz NWR. One of my favorite photos from their is of about twenty sandpipers on a partially submerged grocery cart in Darby Creek. http://usercontent2.hubimg.com/12289321_f496.jpg

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

      Hey, Chris! The Athos I oil spill of '04 hit the Heinz NWR, and we at Tri-State Bird Rescue washed those birds, as well as a fox and some turtles. The fox had to be put down due to rabies. Pretty sad when their environment is poisoned by the curse of oil.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      The City of Philadelphia tried years ago to wipe out what is now known as the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. They wanted to build a landfill there and run an interstate highway through it. Some of that land was saved and I have kayaked through much of it. Birds of all kinds call it home either seasonally or permanently. We are slowly taking away what they need to survive and counting on their adaptability is not the final answer. But the ability of many birds to adapt to these changes is impressive in a sad sort of way. Thanks for keeping us informed.

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

      Thank YOU, Patricia. That's why many of the birds adapt as best they can. Hope the Whooping Crane, one of the oldest birds in the world, can do that, too. I will be working on that project in Feb. 2016.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Preserving habitats for our precious creatures should be a #1 priority but often it is not. In our little rural area a huge corporation has come in and is deforesting areas that have been home to many amazing birds and other wildlife who have made those places their home for ages. This is happening on the outskirts of the little town I live in and it is heartbreaking . Our little voices have yelled loud and strong to stop this but alas money speaks so much louder than our little voices.

      We do what we can in our own space to preserve their homes.

      thank you for sharing this important article.

      Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps

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

      I appreciate your having read this, Frank. Many people will be blind to this, for if they don't know it, it doesn't matter.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      this was a must read hub.. killing the world harshly.. yet it won't effect our lifetime.. but our children and their children will really feel it.. a great share and again a must read

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

      Sadly, Sha, that's one of the reasons why these birds have been driven to parking lots and shopping centers. Not many places to go if they fail.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Deb, I hope admin chooses wisely as well. However, I won't hold my breath. There is so much development going on and in order to develop, builders must first destroy habitats. It hurts my heart and angers me to see the complete disregard for our wildlife. Will it ever end?

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

      Honestly, Buildreps, it is happening with many other forms of wildlife, too, like raccoons and skunks, who are venturing ever closer to our homes. However, we are the true squatters, not the four-leggeds.

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

      That's right, Blossom, and the urgency is now more than ever. This is a big global problem, and until we do what needs to be done, we will be kissing habitat loss squarely on the lips. Thanks for reading!

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 2 years ago from Europe

      Wonderful Hub! You wrote a hopeful message how many animals can adapt to their changing environment. It is true, may animals can adapt. I see it in our environment too, although I'm not a skilled bird watcher.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      They do come back to where past generations nested and much to their peril. Where there were swamplands, there are now trim lawns and tall buildings, but the Bush Stone Curlews still come back to nest on the lawns, much to the peril of eggs and hatchlings when the grass is being mown. We do need to take care of our wildlife, or we won't have it any more.

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

      I've got to do it, Billy. There's just so much at stake.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm reminded of that line from the original "Jurassic Park" movie....."life will find a way." In this case, I'm not so sure it can. Keep ringing the bell, Deb.

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

      Thanks, Jodah, but yes, it is a fact of life. That's why it is such a mad rush with so many endangered animals, not just birds. We are also looking at simpler life forms, like beetles, and other beneficial bugs that are seeing life flash before their eyes, too. Yes, I meant for this to be disturbing, as those killer bees that have mutated so many times over, are slowly coming into the cold areas. It's not just science fiction any more.

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

      Yes, and the scary things about that, is many common birds want to live there for the food sources that zookeepers feed their birds.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wonderful but somewhat disturbing hub Deb. It seems birds and animals have to adapt to the changing environment or perish. It is the survival of the fittest I suppose. I hope we can turn things around somehow. Voted up.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 2 years ago from United States

      My very thoughts as I visited the city zoo this past week my friend. whonu