Last month, this column focused on the impact the human population has on bird species. The impact is significant enough to take a second look into this topic. The following are more examples of how humans have impacted birds.
Studies have shown that human noises affect bird populations. There are reduced populations of birds in industrial areas, near busy roadways and other noisy environments.
Sound is important to birds in their communication with each other, and many species cannot compete with human sounds. Some species have adapted by changing the pitch of their songs to a higher frequency which can be differentiated from the lower pitch of most human sounds.
The northern mockingbird has always been a night singer. Research has shown that other species not normally known to sing at night have increased their night singing as a way to avoid daytime noise.
Industrial farming practices and chemical use have had an impact on many bird species. Increased farming of corn and other grains have allowed certain species such as crows, grackles and cowbirds that feed on these crops to expand their range and increase their population, often to the detriment of other species.
Reduction of insects due to chemicals has created a more sterile environment not suitable for most birds.
Fortunately, not all human activity has a negative effect on bird species. In the eastern U.S. much farmland has been regrown into forest. This habitat restoration has caused a surge in the pileated woodpecker population. This is the woodpecker that many of us remember from “The Woody Woodpecker Show.”
The wild turkey is a species that was almost eradicated from the eastern U.S. due to habitat destruction and hunting. In the late 1900s, reforestation and hunting regulations caused a rebound in population and today wild turkeys are a common sight. I have seen and heard wild turkeys when hiking in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque.
The American robin is a familiar bird to most of us. The robin depends on berry producing plants, shrubs and trees for its survival in winter months. Human suburban expansion brought with it more fruit trees and varieties of berry producing plants. With more winter food available the robin has expanded its range northward.
The northern cardinal has also benefited from suburban expansion. Open lawns, shrubs, scattered trees and backyard bird feeders have allowed the cardinal to expand its range northward.
Hopefully, we will continue to take the steps necessary to restore bird habitat so more species can thrive for future generations to enjoy.
Mary Schmauss is the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Albuquerque. A lifelong birder and author of “For the Birds: A Month-by-Month Guide to Attracting Birds to your Backyard.”