Posted by: atowhee | October 19, 2022


“Just a little rain falling all around,
The grass lifts its head to the heavenly sound,
Just a little rain, just a little rain,
What have they done to the rain?

“Just a little boy standing in the rain,
The gentle rain that falls for years.
And the grass is gone,
The boy disappears,
And rain keeps falling like helpless tears,
And what have they done to the rain?” –Malvina Reynolds, 1962

She was writing about nuclear radiation from open air testing. We’ve got our own modern killers.

The 2022 State of the Birds report is out. Among the contributors is Klamath Bird Observatory in Ashland, Oregon. Some key points: one-fourth of North America’s breeding bird population has been lost in the last fifty years. Groups hardest hit: 1) grassland birds (like Bobolink); 2) shorebirds; 3) sea ducks; 4) eastern forest birds; 5) arid land birds. Increasing in numbers: many waterbirds including geese, swans, freshwater ducks, herons & egrets. This latter is due in some part to our expanded refuge system and the end of market hunting. Our entire heron family was almost sacrificed for women’s hats over a century ago. Some of our culture’s worst impulses have been subdued.

Research shows that Lesser Yellowlegs are subject to severe hunting each year when they migrate to Latin America. Grassland birds are the victims of habitat destruction and poison use in the Great Plains region. Aridland birds are hit by drought, habitat destruction, cows on public land. One serious decline noted among Sage Thrashers–at least they seemed to have had a great summer out at Malheur this year. For grassland and aridland birds we need to preserve natural habitat–not farm it, graze it or pave it.

Puffin colonies are declining on both coasts. Climate change is part of the problem as it changes the ecosystem of the seas. Sea ducks are also hit by that change. In Hawaii some endemics are in dire straits. There people are just one of the many invasive species in an ecosystem that has limited area and few options for birds to find a new place to survive. The Nene has been doing better in recent years.

Here in the West some of my favorite birds are among those that have lost 50% or more their population since 1970: Allen’s & Rufous Hummingbirds, Pinyon Jay, Black Skimmer, Black Swift, Clark’s and Western Grebes, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Surfbird, Black-chinned Sparrow, Black Scoter, Elegant tern, Evening Grosbeak, Heermann’s Gull, Least Tern, Ruddy Turnstone, Tricolored blackbird, both dowitchers, whimbrel, Yellow Rail, Whimbrel. The report concludes with a clear-eyed summary of actions and changes that can help these and all the other birds. If you can help, please do.

Click here to see or download the report.

Bobolink, Diamond, Oregon

Above: Elegant Terns, Rufous Hummingbird, Whimbrel, Black Skimmers.


  1. Unfortunately so many bird species are in decline due to human influences.

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