Attracting Songbirds
- Dick Christensen

13191 Centerline Rd., Wales Hollow, NY 14139

An avian chorus still heralds the beginning of spring in North America, but the number of singers has declined sharply of late. The trend will be difficult to reverse.

Organized in 1966 by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) tracks changes in bird populations by annual roadside counts along permanent routes. A sense of urgency now attends the counts. It springs in large part from recent readings of the BBS data showing major population decreases of migratory songbirds that nest in forests east of the Mississippi, but winter in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Many of our birds of summer appear to be in decline. Warblers, tanagers, vireos, flycatchers and many of our most colorful and popular birds are facing a battery of threats that may soon lead to the regional extinction of several species.

This short presentation cannot address all the problems advanced to explain this decline, but its purpose is to inspire curiosity so that if you are not already aware of the wide diversity of bird life, you will be interested in learning about it.

As woodlot owners we can help migrating birds in a number of ways. One way is to discourage fragmentation of the local woods and parks. Every new trail or cleared area creates more edges and exposes nesting birds to dangers. Cowbirds, starlings, grackles, and blue jays are the winners in all such clearings; our migrant songbirds, who need cover to protect their nests from cowbirds and predators, are the losers.


Why American Songbirds are Vanishing. John Terborgh in Scientific American, Vol. 266, No. 5, pages 98-104; May 1992.

Silence of the Songbirds. Les Line in National Geographic, pages 68-91; June 1993.

Where Have All the Songbirds Gone? Joseph Wallace in Sierra Magazine, pages 44 48; March/April 1986.

Empty Skies. Jack Connor in Harrosmith, pages 32-45; July/August 1988.

Gone With the Trees. David Wilcove and Robert F. Whitcomb in Natural History, Vol. 92, No. 9, pages 82-91; September 1983.


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