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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 reportin 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.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
April Qian was a part-time producer for Vermont Edition.
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