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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: What Smaller Flocks Mean For Vermont's Fall Bird Migration

Two lonely geese fly into the sunset
Jeffrey Hamilton
A recent study found a steep decline in the total biomass of migrating birds from 2007 to 2017. On the other hand, populations of waterfowl such as Canada geese have grown steadily since the 1970s.

A recent report in the journal Science says there are 3 billion fewer birds in the world today than there were five decades ago. That's not species, that's just sheer bulk. But the abundance of birds has a significant impact on our global landscape. We're talking about birds and fall migration, and what a drop in bird abundance means for our local species and ecosystems.

Bird Diva Bridget Butler joins Vermont Edition for our annual fall migration show, how bird watchers in our region may be experiencing the plunge in bird populations and what climate and ecosystem changes mean for our local species.

And we'll discuss some simple steps the Cornell Lab of Ornithology identified which individuals and communities can take to help birds, including:

  • Make windows safer, by installing screens or using film, paint or other methods to break up reflections.
  • Keep cats indoors, as both pets and feral cats kill an estimated 2.6 billion birds annually.
  • Reduce lawn cover and instead grow native plants, providing shelter and nesting areas for birds.
  • Avoid pesticides, often toxic to birds or contaminating their food or prey.
  • Drink coffee that's good for birds, by avoiding sun-grown beans and choosing shade-grown coffee that protects forest canopy favored by migratory birds.
  • Reduce your use of plastic, especially single-use plastic bags, bottles, wraps and utensils, thus reducing the plastic many bird species ingest mistaking the plastic for food.
  • Watch birds and share what you see, and consider sharing your observations with online projects like iNaturalist, eBird, or Project FeederWatch.

Broadcast live on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Originally from Delaware, Matt moved to Alaska in 2010 for his first job in radio. He spent five years working as a radio and television reporter, radio producer, talk show host, and news director. His reporting received awards from the Alaska Press Club and the Alaska Broadcasters Association. Relocating to southwest Florida, he was a producer for television news and NPR member station WGCU for their daily radio show, Gulf Coast Live. He joined Vermont Public in October 2017 as producer of Vermont Edition.
April Qian was a part-time producer for Vermont Edition.
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