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Posted by: atowhee | May 31, 2018

BIRD POPULATIONS

The Orfegon birders email list has had a discussion of ravens and landfills.  I saw my first Chihuahuan Raven in the Brownsville city dump, perhaps the cultural highlight of that marvy Texas town.  One OBOL correspondent wrote that the ravens are now an artificial population…I suspect there are nil bird populations on this planet that are “natural” in that they resemble what was present before man invaded their habitat, wherever it may be.

Here’s my comment back:”Artificial indeed…there are man-made or human environment-induced populations of birds everywhere now…
House Sparrows are in many nations…ditto the mynah…most of Hawaii’s easily seen birds are introduced except for golden-plovers…parrot family members are now abundant in cities from San Francisco to Amsterdam…

Robins did not breed in the Pacific states’ lowlands until early 1900s after white men had created yards, lawns, golf courses, cemeteries and parks with plenty of earthworms…so they moved down from the mountains…
In the 1860s naturalists noted Cliff and Barn Swallows starting to nest in western towns and cities rather than cliffs, eventually our swifts followed suit…
BARN owls, HOUSE wrens, HOUSE finches (formerly known as adobe finches in the west), Mockingbirds, Hooded Orioles following the planting of fan palms as landscape trees…Brewer’s Blackbirds, the invasion of the west by cowbirds following–wait for it–cow herds that replaced the bison once the heart of cowbird life…rock  pigeons, collared-doves, and the northward march of many species as we humans heat up the planet (Anna’s Hummingbird, R-S Hawk, W-T Kite, G-T Grackle)…
On the ravens, we owe it to them…they were almost extirpated  by our gun-toting ancestors who shot them on sight as “vermin.”  I wish them well as they are clever and adaptable enough they may survive the planetary holocaust we are bringing down on living creatures on this earth.
I should add it is not just the modern market economy that destroys and alters the natural world.  This has been going on since man walked upright.  Studies of Native American shell middens in San Francisco area showed how they had hunted their way down the food chain…from geese to small shorebirds, gradually wiping out the most preferable (big) prey and moving down to the next largest…what saved the native birds that had become so abundant when Europeans arrived?  European diseases that spread rapidly across North America and decimated the Native American population before the west was colonized.  I cover a lot of this history in my book, San Francisco’s Natural History, Sand Dunes to Streetcars. Info on the book if you click here.
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