Loggerhead Shrike, photo courtesy of Joseph Naccarato.
A journal article published in Science on September 19th, 2019 reported several decades’ worth of data gathered through Breeding Bird surveys across North America. The results of the study showed a continent-wide massive decline of North American avifauna; almost 3 billion birds have left our skies since 1970.
In other words, 30% of our North American birds have vanished, leaving the country much quieter than it used to be.
Grassland birds have experienced some of the worst declines- numbers have more than halved over the past 50 years. 700 million individuals have disappeared since 1970, which is a significant loss for grassland habitats. Birds are an excellent indicator of ecosystem health, so the losses that we’re seeing across the continent represent much deeper environmental issues.
As a bird lover and someone who works on the Loggerhead Shrike Recovery team, these numbers were difficult and heartbreaking to read.
The loggerhead shrike is a species of grassland songbird that is now listed as critically endangered in Canada, whose population declines have been made abundantly clear in the recent Science study. I felt saddened at the thought of these amazing and beautiful songbirds slowly fading away.
However, though it may seem bleak for North American songbirds like the loggerhead shrike, there are many changes we can make in our daily lives to help the neighbourhood birds we know and love. Simple actions like keeping cats indoors, avoiding pesticides, and making your windows visible to birds go a long way. Visit this website to learn more about how you can help: https://www.3billionbirds.org.
When we take action, birds can recover! Woodpecker populations have increased by almost 15 million because of careful habitat protection, raptors have increased by almost 15 million because of pesticide management, and water bird numbers are up by 35 million because organizations invested in wetland regeneration.
Luckily, for grassland birds like the loggerhead shrike, we have been invested in its species’ recovery since 2001. Wildlife Preservation Canada works with like-minded organizations across the continent to aid in shrike recovery by coordinating a captive breeding and release program, by surveying and monitoring wild populations, and by practicing habitat stewardship. Learn more about our captive breeding program here: https://cottagelife.com/outdoors/this-endangered-songbird-is-in-a-captive-breeding-program. If you’d like to help grassland birds recover, consider making a donation Wildlife Preservation Canada.
Conservation Breeding Coordinator – Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Program
Jane holds a Master’s degree in Animal Biosciences from the University of Guelph, where she studied building collision injuries in migratory songbird species. Jane worked as a rehabilitation supervisor, where she was responsible for the care, treatment, and reintroduction of injured and orphaned wildlife, including many species at risk.