Eagle-eyed bird watchers are worried after Victoria’s Christmas Bird Count revealed fewer species than usual.
Over the last 10 years the average number has been between 140 and 143. Two hundred volunteers found only 135, the lowest amount since 2007.
“It’s a real surprise for us,” said Ann Nightingale of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory.
“We are seeing huge population declines, some birds are increasing, but many birds are decreasing. The sea birds and really struggling, shorebirds and really struggling, grassland birds, which aren’t birds we don’t see often in Victoria are struggling.”
Regular birds missing include: The Brant, Ring-necked Pheasant, Sanderling, Barn Owl, Western Screech Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Sky Lark, Evening Grosbeak and Red Crossbill.
It’s part of a troubling global decline. Arne Mooers, a SFU Biodiversity professor found even more bad news in a new study.
“We took a new look at extinction rates at all the birds in the world, and we discovered that the rate is perhaps up to six times higher than we previously estimated,” said Mooers.
“Other research has pointed to climate change as a major factor.”
Even though the problem is linked to the big issue of climate change, there are some small actions people can take right in their backyard to help bird populations.
“Keeping control of their cats [helps]” said Nightingale.
“I have cats I love cats… or not using poisons around their yard. Victoria has a rat issue, and the things that eat rats, that have been poisoned or mice that have been poisoned, also die”
There are also other strategies, like getting cats special collars, and maintaining bird feeders.
Experts also say this count is only a snapshot, and there is hope that some numbers could bounce back against the odds. Sooke’s bird count begins Saturday.
The preliminary list says the following were found:
Gr. White-fronted Goose
Great Blue Heron
Great Horned Owl
Northern Pygmy Owl
American Tree Sparrow