Happy Our-Little-Piece-Of-Earth Earth Day

Today’s (April 22, 2021) media will be full, and rightfully so, of proclamations calling for an urgent global response to the climate crisis. As you might suspect, one of my interests in these proclamations of goals and possible solutions is their impact on the impact of climate change on bird populations. Globally and my yard, like the ones pictured in this post.

As is true of so much of ecology, the impact of climate change on bird populations is a complex blend of nuance that will defy communication in simplistic headlines sure to come.

Hermit Thrush

One nuance is that climate change is only recently, in ecological change time, having an impact and is not, yet, the primary reason for the loss of 1 Billion birds over the last 40 years. That would be habitat loss closely followed by the loss of arthropod biomass.

Pileated Woodpecker

One of the things that attracted us to our neighborhood in Decatur, GA was, and continues to be, how much of the original forest was accommodated in the build out. Habitat loss could have been a lot worse. But, unintentionally, there was a significant loss of micro-habitat based on the landscaping choices of the 1930s and continuing to this day. Our yard with all of its English Ivy is prima facie evidence of attempting an English cottage look in urban metro-Atlanta. We, the collective we, also contributed to biodiversity decline, especially ‘bugs’, as we used post-WWII modern chemistry to control ‘pests’. This has been a problem because 90+% of terrestrial birds require insects to eat and feed their young. Yet, according to some entomologists we have lost 50% of the insect population since 1970 with indiscriminate pesticide spraying to maintain turf lawns being a leading contributor.

Scarlet Tanager

So while global leadership takes on global issues and sets the course for large-scale solutions for the next few decades, we have an opportunity to continue to do some Earth repair work right now and see the result in a season. 

Here is a resource from National Audubon: https://www.audubonva.org/audubon-at-home Another good source is Doug Tallamy’s books. 
One point Tallamy stresses is the importance of native trees, especially oaks. Oaks host 534 insect species. Ginkgos 1.  Bradford Pears 0. I think this is something to think about. Many of us have had to take down old-growth trees for safety. Oaks, and other hardwoods, make a great choice for replacement. Yep, they are slow growing, but most of us stay in our neighborhoods for a long time 🙂

And, if you are trying to control an insect infestation, and haven’t already done so, check on or if you use a yard crew check with them, on how to target and what insecticides to use: https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/less-toxic-insecticides/ 

Brown Thrasher

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