Are we making it tougher on the birds?

There was an article in the newspaper last month headlined, “Where have the wild birds gone? 3 billion fewer than 1970.” The article questioned if perhaps the effect was caused by cats, and birds hitting windows, but we have had cats and windows for generations. How could that be suddenly so effective in killing birds?

In national counts the house sparrow and other sparrows have been hit the most. Eastern meadowlarks have been decimated by more than three quarters, and western meadow larks almost as bad. Bobwhite quail numbers are down 80%. Numbers like these definitely indicate that something is very wrong.

I find it amazing that they never mentioned the one big change which has happened to the environment of birds which has had, and continues to have a very fatal effect on bird populations. I am amused at the hue and cry that echoed across the country not too many years ago about the effect some of the human activities were having on the snail darter, and what terrible practices they were. There seems to be no concern today for the tremendous unexplained loss in birds populations.

I worked in TV broadcasting. We had an antenna tower in South Wales. It stood about 1,000 feet tall and was supported by guy wires on three sides. I retired in 1989, so it has been a while. People studying the populations of various birds used to come to our antenna installation in South Wales from time to time. They walked around the tower area counting the numbers of various dead birds on the ground to get an idea of local populations of the various species. Apparently even our single tower with no moving blades was a killer for birds. In their flight, birds did not expect to have to avoid obstructions in the sky.

In recent years we have erected many towers, even plantations of towers, covering many miles, and they have large spinning blades, which obviously the birds find unavoidable in their flight. Just as a small creature darts in front of your auto, not realizing that it is dangerous, and often pays for his ignorance with his life, so the birds are also seriously affected by their assumed security as they fly aloft.

I recall reading a few years ago about how many thousands of bald and golden eagles were killed each year in California’s windmill arrays, which cover hundreds of acres of land. What I find strange is that as common as this bird killing has become, we hear so little of it from the defenders of the snail darter, or any other environmental groups.

Are they being hushed by the millions of dollars that are being reaped by this recent rush to cover the country with windmills? It would seem that the rage today is don’t waste time on studies, full speed ahead while the going is good. I cannot help thinking, when we come to our senses and realize we need these birds more than we realized, is someone going to pull down all of these wind farms at the taxpayers expense?

There are many different kinds of birds, and they all have a purpose in our lives. Keeping those pesky insects at bay is not a small part of their chore. I bet a few water wheels in the Mississippi could replace many windmills with less danger to the life in the water, or even water wheels in the constantly moving tides.

I am not a solution inventor, but I don’t think killing off our bird populations is a good answer. It can be one of the most stupid things we are doing. It is going one step forward for two steps backward. A negative in what we call progress. It’s a here today and gone tomorrow solution, which carries with it a much more dreadful disaster than we realize. May God bless America.

Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com


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