Sunday, June 17, 2007

Declining numbers

The National Audubon Society released a report Thursday called "Common Birds in Decline." Some of the species -- bobolink, whip-poor-will, henslow's sparrow -- don't come as such a surprise. The study covers a 40-year period, and birders for a while now have found these species elusive.

What may be more surprising are birds on the list including eastern meadowlarks, horned larks and field sparrows. I only have 20 years or so of data to go by, but I have found these birds fairly common in the right habitat. There must have been many, many more back in the day. Also interesting are the birds that have increased their populations in Illinois. (Here's a story about the situation in Wisconsin.) These really don't come as a surprise to me. While I grew up in a different part of the Midwest, I can't recall species such as wild turkeys, turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks as being as common as they are now.

Anecdotally, a few breeding birds that are now less common in my view in the Midwest: tufted titmouse, house finch, pileated woodpecker.

More common: american kestrel, mute swan, northern mockingbird, baltimore oriole, cedar waxwing.

Here's a nice line from the Wisconsin State Journal. For me, southern Ohio is a whip-poor-will mecca:

In fact, imagining a summer evening in the fields and forests of Southwestern Wisconsin without the call of the whip-poor-will is akin to thinking of the forest-bound lakes of the North Woods without the wail of the loon.

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