by Terri Hommel
(Indianapolis, IN USA)
I have seen only 2 Juncos this year at my feeder in Indy, instead of the usual 50 or so. Any ideas why?
It is very hard to know for sure why particular birds do not show up at certain times when we expect them.
I have seen only 6 at a time so far this year and for the past week, there are only 3 together very early in the morning.
But here a few reasons that are sometimes the cause of birds not showing up:
1. It has been a fairly mild winter in some areas of North America so the Juncos may not have traveled as far south as you are. They may just show up late this year.
2. They may have found a suitable location with a good food source somewhere else and have decided to stay there.
3. Ellen Ketterson a professor at Indiana University and founding director of IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute has spent her career studying the diversity found among common birds. She is perhaps best known for her work with juncos. She has said this.
“The year 1970 is when I chose to study a sparrow-like bird, the dark-eyed junco, for my thesis research,” Ketterson said. “One reason I chose to study juncos was that they were so abundant. Yesterday, the journal Science informed me that juncos are in precipitous decline. There are now 168 million fewer juncos in the world than there were when my studies began. My bird is losing out, and it is hardly alone.
“We are losing sparrows, warblers, and woodpeckers, too. Birds from the eastern US, the grasslands, and the boreal forests are declining fast. In one generation—mine—we have 3 billion fewer birds.
“Birdwatchers know that we depend on birds for ecological services like seed dispersal, pollination, as well as recreation. However, our collective impact on the environment will continue to decimate their numbers until we change our attitudes and behavior. The situation has passed from serious to critical.”
Number 3 is the most difficult reason to accept, but unfortunately, it may be the reason you are not seeing as many as before.
Let’s hope we will all take this threat seriously and do what each of us can in our own lives to preserve wild bird habitat so they have a place to live and raise their young. Without that, we will continue to see fewer birds at our feeders.
I hope this helps a little to explain your question.
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