As an anthropologist I'd advise to be careful, in public campaigns at least, 
with arguments about overpopulation. 

It can easily backfire, because let's face it, most people on the planet care 
more about people than birds or animals or nature. And this is probably one big 
reason why populists like Bolsonaro, etc., who are in favor of careless 
exploitation, can gain so much popular support, and go on to burn down the 
Amazon. Most people have never been to the Amazon, and most of them care more 
about shortterm profits or even basic livelihoods, and they often don't know 
about the global importance of biodiversity. 

So, I think it is more strategic to emphasize that we need the birds for a 
healthy planet, going into the future together. When Fitzpatrick wrote in the 
, that "Natural habitat must not be viewed as an expendable luxury but as a 
crucial system that fosters human health and supports all life on the planet."  
that's more powerful. If they had said, let's work to cut world population, 
then you can be sure that their argument would have failed, in today's bleak 

They were right also to raise up positive examples of wetlands restored for our 
benefit and for the wetland birds. And similarly one can argue for good 
measures on a bigger scale, such as those raised in this thread, such as also a 
smarter agriculture that can accomodate spaces for birds, airports timing their 
lawn-cutting better, and so on, all of which would fly better than suggesting 
that people are the problem as such, which I think risks needlessly making 
enemies.  It might even bring about a nasty backlash, from the kind of people 
who don't care about the environment, but are eager to exploit these issues 
(witness the ongoing ultra-vicious backlash against Greta Thunberg). 

I also agree the arguments about overpopulation aren't fully convincing, since 
the same trends towards smaller families are in effect around the world (even 
China now, after the end of the 1 child policy, to the point that the 
government is scrambling to persuade or force women to have more babies now 
lest the country starts shrinking like Japan and many other countries already 

And these trends are for the same basic reason everywhere: Education, 
healthcare and less poverty make people have less children. They have many kids 
as an insurance policy: If they know many kids will die, they naturally think 
that you better get ten, and hope that a few survive. So overpopulation, as a 
problem because it is a strain of resources, is probably best dealth with by 
means of good shared world governance and good economics. I am not hopeful -- 
but, I don't think there are any other ways.

There was a very nice children's book by Sven Wernström, "Resa på okänd planet" 
(Journey to an unknown planet, published in Swedish in 1967), which I read as a 
kid, in which the unknown planet is planet Earth. Two Swedish middle school 
kids accidentally come upon the spaceship of two teenager aliens, who are 
visiting earth. They get to go with them, on their secret mission around Earth, 
which turns out to be about capturing two of every kind of wildlife, as a 
Noah's ark expedition ... to take back to their own alien planet which had 
become barren, no longer lush and rich like Earth still is. I think that 
unfortunately the book was never translated into English or any other 
language... but it was a beautiful message.  
Magnus Fiskesjö

[] on behalf of Kevin J. McGowan 
Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2019 2:12 PM
Subject: RE: [cayugabirds-l] US population trends; time frame for bird study

1970 is used as the starting point because that was when the Breeding Bird 
Survey started taking data. Data on bird populations simply didn’t exist before 
that, with the exception of the Christmas Bird Count. The BBS was started 
partly in response to the perceived decline in birds already occurring.


Kevin McGowan

<> On Behalf Of Alicia
Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2019 1:54 PM
Subject: Re: [cayugabirds-l] US population trends; time frame for bird study

Decrease in children per family: In the 1970's, there were an average of 2.12 
children per family, while from 2009-2018, the number had decreased to an 
average of 1.88 and is holding steady there - a decrease of over 11% . (For 
more info, check 
  The percentage of single child families doubled from 11% of all families in 
1975 to 22% in 2016.  At this point, the birth rate alone is considerably less 
than replacement rate and even with the increase in longevity, the only reason 
the US population size is increasing is immigration.  (That is a factual, not a 
political, statement - for the record, I am not against immigration!)

When did the decline in bird population begin? The effect of human population 
size and, particularly, habitat destruction and the changing chemistry of our 
soil, air, and water, surely have taken a huge toll on birds.  But in at least 
aspect of the new bird population study is misleading.  Its baseline is 1970, 
about 50 years ago, but speaking as someone who was in high school then and who 
learned from birders who were alive at the beginning of the 20th century, it is 
clear that at least spring migration already was had suffered a significant 
decline by 1970.  One very reliable birder I got to know was born in 1905, and 
he assured me that by 1980, spring migration was a shadow of what it had been 
in the 1920s & 30s in Tompkins County.  He wondered if migratory routes had 
changed but said for whatever reason, there were only a fraction of the 
warblers, vireos, orioles, and tanagers moving through the area in the spring 
that there were 50 yrs before.  (This was a man who spent pretty much every 
waking hour of his 93 years being outdoors birding, fishing, or when he was 
younger hunting.)  Other people who had been around birding in the 1930s before 
told me much the same.

If you check accounts in Birds By Bent you'll find supporting evidence for this 
in reports made at the time.  For example, a few years ago I had 25 Palm 
Warblers in one group.  eBird was skeptical, but later when I checked Birds by 
Bent, there were several accounts of palm warbler flocks, including one from Wm 
Brewster (co-founder of the American Ornithologists' Union), writing from 
Massachusetts in 1906, who noted casually that in spring "one may often meet up 
with fifteen or twenty in a single flock or forty or fifty in the course of a 
morning walk."  I don't think any of us thinks of a walk that yields 50 Palm 
Warbler as a migration event that 'often' happens now.

So as we think about this, we need to be careful not to assume that 1970 was 
the beginning of the end, just because few of us around today remember even 
more plentiful birds before that.  There is plenty of evidence that this 
started much, much earlier, and as we look for causes and solutions, that needs 
to be kept in mind.


On 9/26/2019 11:55 AM, Deb Grantham wrote:

You’re right about population – nobody wants to talk about that anymore.

I do the same with composting but also compost ALL of my food waste. I know the 
crows and raccoons and possums and so on help with that, but that’s ok with me.


From: Donna Lee Scott <><>
Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2019 11:54 AM
To: Deb Grantham <><>; CAYUGABIRDS-L 
Subject: RE: [cayugabirds-l] How to help birds

Compost all you can; I save out most used paper towels and tissues and mix with 
my big compost pile leaves, grass, veg garbage etc.
Having a few small woodsy plots here, I also make “wildlife hut” piles with 
most my downed branches and tree/bush trimmings, rather than send it to the 
Town of Lansing on their ONE brush pickup service per year at least makes mulch 
out of all they pick up.

But the Other Big Elephant in the room is HUMAN OVERPOPULATION, which obviously 
is helping to cause a lot of climate change , habitat loss, rain forest 
destruction, etc.
A very complex issue for which probably only massive education world-wide will 
help. Look at results of China’s previous efforts at “one child per couple”…
Back in the 1970s there was the Zero Population Growth book and publicity. 
Haven’t heard much about this lately.

Donna Scott

 [] On Behalf Of Deb Grantham
Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2019 11:42 AM
Subject: RE: [cayugabirds-l] How to help birds

For reducing impacts of ag, don’t waste food. A very high percentage of food in 
the US is wasted – spoils or people won’t eat the produce with spots, etc.


 On Behalf Of Dave Nutter
Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2019 10:36 PM
Subject: [cayugabirds-l] How to help birds

The Lab of O recently released a report saying the world’s wild bird population 
has dropped an alarming 29% in the last five decades. I also received a list 
from the Lab of O about how we as individuals can help reduce the harm to 
birds. Suggestions include preventing window strikes, stopping cat predation, 
stopping pesticide use, planting native species instead of lawns, reducing 
plastic use and recycling plastic, and not consuming sun-grown coffee. I would 
add bananas and sugar to that list of tropical plantations which destroy 
habitat, and suggest generally eating locally. The list also talks about 
advocating policies in each of those areas.

Anyway, the suggestions are good, and I support them. Yet I think there’s an 
elephant in the room. An issue which was not mentioned is destroying coastal 
habitats, mountain habitats, and arctic habitats including sea ice. It is 
causing desertification. It is producing larger wildfires, including where 
plants and animals are not fire-adapted. It is destroying coral reefs which are 
nurseries for fish. It has already moved the ranges of fish and other aquatic 
bird food by hundreds of miles or affected their populations. It creates 
increasingly powerful storms which can devastate islands, as we have seen in 
Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

The problem is climate change, and it is predicted to move the growing 
conditions for plants much faster than the plants can move and regrow, thus 
destroying habitats for birds at range-wide scales. And that’s before 
considering all the habitat destruction caused by humans trying to adapt, move, 
fight over resources, and create new farm land to replace the areas which are 
no longer usable.

So, I think fighting climate change should be on that list for helping birds 
(as well as helping many other creatures, including humans). And that means, 
among many other things, reducing our carbon footprints to limit the future 
What is the carbon footprint of birding, and what would reducing it mean?
Not flying?

Using an electric car charged with renewable energy or at least a high mpg car? 
 (And even keeping renewable energy use at a moderate level, because 
photovoltaic & wind “farms” also displace habitat and harm birds.)
Limiting miles driven?
Car-pooling to go birding?

Using discretion when deciding what trips to take? How many gallons of gasoline 
should be burned by people to see a little lost bird? Putting a limit on the 
area in which to chase rarities. Staying in a county or a basin rather than 
trying to personally cover a state, country, continent, or planet? Forego 
chasing rarities which have been seen before?

More positively, how about concentrating birding on a small area and getting to 
know its birds well: places you can walk or bike to, places that are already 
along your daily commute.

And for myself, I have greatly enjoyed the photographs of birds and 
descriptions of the birds’ activities which other people have contributed to 
their eBird reports. Rather than envy, I can share their joy without feeling I 
need to jump in a car to see (or miss) that bird myself.

Anyway, these are some issues I have been struggling with, and I wonder if 
other birders are also thinking about these things. Thanks.

- - Dave Nutter
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