A recent study has been published by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative stating that one-third of all North American bird species need urgent conservation action. Habitat loss is at the forefront of the causes leading to decreased numbers in birds and the report states the need to continue investing in the preservation of wetland areas to ensure species thrive in the areas.
Local bird expert and owner of Eagle-Eye Tours Cam Gillies says that habitat loss is the greatest threat to birds in the Columbia Valley region.
Grassland birds and wetland birds are particularly sensitive to loss of grasslands or wetlands. Just because there’s so little of that habitat, it’s already so threatened. One of the big factors here for grassland birds in particular is that the grasslands are where all the people want to live and develop. So we’ve lost a lot of grasslands to housing developments, golf courses, etc. said Mr. Gillies.
Another issue that grassland habitat is facing is a lack of fires in the area, he said. Fires allow for the grasslands to stay as a grassland area and not develop into forested areas.
The fire history has also changed, we’re having fewer low intensity fires like we would have in the past. The forest is growing into these grasslands; (this) changes the habitat. It makes it less suitable for grassland birds, said Mr. Gillies.
According the Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey online results, the 2015 spring count was 14,000 individual birds, and the 2015 fall count was 40,000, whereas the 2016 spring count was 25,500.
The public needs to be conscious of the need for conservation and protection of these bird species in the region, said Mr. Gillies.
In terms of things we can do, you can create natural habitats in your yard. You can put up nest boxes, plant trees with fruit that birds will eat, he said.
Another thing to be aware of when thinking about the long-term future of bird conservation is reducing the use of pesticides, Mr Gillies added. With many insect bird species declining steeply in numbers, a concern is the use of pesticides is killing the food source of these birds.