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How birds can tell us so much information about Earth’s health

How birds can tell us so much information about Earth’s health

A vulture about to take off.

John Haldane, an engineer from Wales, invented a type bird cage that allowed canaries along with miners to the depths of the mines. The underground carbon monoxide gas is more dangerous to small songbirds than it is to humans.

A sudden halt to their singing would warn workers to evacuate the pit – and rescue the canary by closing its cage door and opening a valve to pump oxygen inside. It was not until 1986 that canaries were allowed to fly. You are now at easeTheir duties include detecting noxious substances in UK coal mines.

Bird species play the role as mine canaries for the entire planet, as rising temperatures and habitat loss lead to habitat loss. The size trends of their populations provide a warning system by revealing patterns and the extent of environmental change.

Birds are excellent indicators of the health of the ecosystem and other wildlife groups for a variety of reasons. Birds are found in all parts of the world, in all countries, and in almost all habitats. From ivory gulls and Emperor penguins on the Polar Ice Caps to birds of Paradise in Tropical Rainforests and albatrosses cruising through the open ocean to desert Larks in Sahara, there is something for everyone.

Birds are found on the highest mountains and some fly to extraordinary heights: a Rüppell’s vulture A plane collided with itat an altitude 11,300 metres. Some seabirds live at extraordinary depths: one emperor penguin was caught Dive to 564m where it is almost completely dark and the pressure is 50 times stronger than at the ocean’s surface.

There are enough bird species to ensure that patterns in their distributions and numbers closely reflect variations in the environment. There are over 11,000 species worldwide, and more than 400 species on average per country.

A vulture about to take off.
Higher flyers: a Rüppell’s vulture (Gyps rueppelli) in Nairobi National Park, Kenya.
Snowmanradio/Wikipedia, CC BY – SA

Birds are good indicators due to their biology. Bird populations, which are found at the top end of food webs, can be used to gauge changes further down the food chain such as decreases in the number of foods they eat. A decrease in the number of flycatchers, a sign of declining insect populations, may be an indicator of deteriorating natural environments.

Birds also respond to environmental changes. Their local abundance can reflect changes in the climate and land use. Bird population trends often mirror other species.

Other groups of organisms like butterflies, dung beetles, reptiles and others, which are more difficult to study than birds, have also mirrored the phenomenon. ReceiptsSince the 1970s, there has been an increase in the number of farmland birds in Britain. This is due to the increased use pesticides and intensification in food production.

Similar distribution patterns for birds are also consistent with those of many other wildlife groups. Conservation efforts aimed at birds can usually be trusted to benefit a wider range of species.

One million records per day

There are not many species that make it difficult to identify birds. It is now well-understood how birds are classified, their ecology, life history, and distribution are all known. There are over 16,000 scientific papers about bird biology. Each year, published.

Birds are popular and engaging because they are large, conspicuous, and easy to identify. It is estimated that 20% of people are interested in birds. In the USA30% In the UKKeep your birds fed and watched regularly.

An army of birdwatchers around the world collects data on birds on an ad-hoc basis or as part of formal surveys and monitoring programs. The eBird platformThe website, where people can log their bird records has more than one billion observations from over 200 different countries. Each month, there are over one thousand checklists.

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a graph showing projected demand for copper and nickel increasing over time.

Some datasets that cover bird trends can be dated back many decades. This makes them useful for monitoring environmental trends over time. Birds can act as ambassadors of nature and are capable of representing complex ecological communities while still being able to resonate with most people.

A woman in a grey coat watches a bare tree with binoculars in winter.
Citizen scientists keep us informed about changing ecosystems through their bird observations.
DJTaylor/Shutterstock

Birds are less skilled in certain habitats than insects and plants, but they can be more specific than other species. They are less representative for freshwater and marine habitats that land-based ones and are more rare or absent from certain environments, such deep oceans or cave systems.

It is still difficult to beat birds in their ability to show environmental change. We must pay attention to the messages they send us about the state nature and the pressures it is under. They tell us, like canaries in the coal mine: it is time to take action. Our lives may depend upon it.


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