Birds are an important part of the ecology and biodiversity of the world. North America has been home to millions of bird species permanently residing here or visiting during their migration. Now, however, North America is rapidly losing the number of birds it used to have. This sharp decline in the total population of birds has been recorded by scientists and researchers. According to a study by the Journal of Science, North America has lost about 29% of its total bird population since 1970. The estimated population of birds in 1970 was about 10.1 billion, now it stands at about 7.2 billion.

This shows that the total loss of the bird population in the last 50 years is about 2.9 billion birds. These estimates show that the biodiversity crisis in the United States, and Canada is worsening every day. Entire species of beautiful birds from forests have gone extinct because of the deforestation of their habitats. Millions of migratory birds die every year because of the lack of water, airplane traffic, air pollution, and many other reasons. All of these are human-made causes of this crisis. Many bird species have been declared endangered recently because their populations are quickly declining and if we fail to protect them, they will also go extinct.

The presence of these birds in the ecological systems across North America is very important. Without these birds, these ecosystems will go out of balance, and that can lead to the collapse of the whole ecosystem. So, we need to protect these birds, and take measures that will help them survive. We need to pass laws that will help protect the birds. Also, we need research to identify the main causes of bird death in North America, so that steps can be taken towards removing those causes.

For example, window glass is one of the major reasons behind the death of millions of birds every year. Birds cannot identify the presence of window panes and they flew right into the windows. This causes severe head injuries in many bird species and they die, especially in places where there are a lot of high-rise buildings. Another major reason behind the death of the birds is the use of pesticides, oil spills, and other contaminants in the environment. There are some solutions available that can help reduce this rate of death. But there are no laws to enforce these measures and that is why this problem continues to exist. Below are some statistics about bird population, and how a few simple steps can save millions of birds.

Key Takeaways

  • Before the 1970s, the estimated population of birds in North America was about 10.1 billion.
  • Now, the estimated population of birds stands at 7.2 billion. Total loss of 2.9 billion birds or 29% of the total bird population.
  • According to birds.cornell.edu, North America lost 175 million Dark-eyed Junco, 93 million White-throated Sparrow, and other 31 species lost more than 700 million birds.
  • Research also indicates that every year more than a billion birds die because of human activity.
  • This decline in population shows that more birds are dying and fewer birds are born every year, leading to such a significant decline in the total population.
  • The Forest bird population has witnessed a decline of more than one billion birds over the last fifty years.
  • The population of grassland birds has witnessed a decline of 720 million or about 53% of their entire population.
  • Aerial insectivores, coastal shoreline birds, and migratory birds have also witnessed a drop in their population.  

Reasons Behind Birds Population Decline:

There are a lot of reasons behind this decline in bird population in North America. Here is a list of them.

●     Pesticides

Pesticides are one of the main reasons behind the mass death of birds. Pesticides are poisonous, and when birds consume something that has been polluted with pesticides, they can die. Pesticides have become very common in the agricultural sector. They help protect crops from pests, but they can kill birds. Apart from that, these pesticides seep into the water sources and poison them as well. So, when birds drink water from these contaminated water sources, they become sick and die. It is one of the main reasons behind the death of millions of birds. 

●     Habitat Destruction

Another major reason behind the death of millions of birds is the destruction of their habitat. Birds lose habitat when humans decide to cut trees, and turn woodlands into barren land for agriculture, residential, or business use. When their habitats are destroyed, local bird species have nowhere to go. Most of them try to migrate to nearby areas but in most cases, they cannot survive outside their respective ecosystem. For example, when swamps are cleared, the birds that live in those areas have nowhere else to go. Even if they try to migrate, they end up dying on the way. Most of the habitat destruction or habitat loss for birds happens from building homes, agricultural use of land, building roads, bridges, train tracks, etc.

●     Oil Spills

Oil spills are also one of the major reasons behind the death of millions of birds. Oil spills happen mostly during the transport and extraction of oil. Oil spills in oceans, and near shorelines, kill a huge number of local birds and fish species. As you know that the oil floats on the surface of the water. So, when these shoreline birds return to the water, they get trapped in the oil. Their feathers become heavy and they can no longer fly. It leads them to be stranded in those areas, and they mostly die because of that. It also destroys habitats, as it kills many fish species that these birds eat. Also, these oil spills are extremely difficult to clear and they take a lot of time and effort. Birds that are trapped in the oil spills die because of hunger as they can no longer walk, or fly. They cannot find food and die while being trapped.

●     Environmental Pollution

It is also one of the major causes of the death of birds. Environmental pollution affects birds in many ways. For example, environmental pollution causes the birds to get trapped in their nests, noise pollution also kills many birds as it affects their ability to navigate and communicate. Air pollution causes a lower concentration of oxygen in the air, and when birds are flying at high altitudes they need more oxygen. The low availability of oxygen in those cases causes the birds to die. Smoke and smog also blind millions of birds and cause them to die. Water pollution, air pollution, and noise pollution, all are lethal for birds. Environmental pollution also causes climate change. Global warming is one of the effects of this scenario and it is a life-threatening situation for billions of birds. If the global temperature keeps rising in the future, millions of birds would die because of that as they can only live within a certain range of temperatures.

●     Window Pane Accidents

Window glass accidents are also one of the major causes of the deaths of birds in residential areas and cities. Most migratory bird species die because of this issue. When these birds pass through these buildings and homes, they are unable to identify the window panes. So, they just fly into the window panes, which causes head injuries in many birds. According to estimates, window glass accidents kill more than a billion birds every year in the United States and Canada. Apart from migratory bird species, there are a lot of birds that live in residential areas or near the residential areas that are also the victims of window glass accidents.

●     Plastics

We use plastics every day in one form or the other. Most of this plastic ends up in landfills. From those landfills, it enters the water streams and land. It kills millions of birds every year. Most of the time, birds ingest the plastic thinking of it as food, instead, they choke on it and die. Even if they can ingest it, it poisons them from the inside and causes them to die. There are a lot of plastic products that can trap birds and kill them. For example, plastic-based nets can trap birds inside and they die because of suffocation or starve to death as they are trapped and cannot get food.

●     House Pets

A lot of birds that visit the residential areas get murdered by house pets. Cats are known for attacking the birds and killing them. Some dogs are also known for killing the birds. According to estimates, cats kill more than 2.4 billion birds every year. When birds visit the backyards to get some water and food, your pets attack them and can kill them. Cats are silent predators in this scenario. They sneak up on birds that are drinking water, or foraging on the ground and kill them. Outdoor cat species are also known for eating the birds that they kill.

How Can We Help Protect Birds?

We know that billions of birds die every year because of human activity and if we want this to stop, we will have to take some measures. These measures will help us lower the number of birds that die. For example, the simple act of keeping your cats indoors can help you save a lot of birds. Here are a few things that you can do to protect these bird species.

1.   Planting Native Trees

It is very important to replenish the lost flora and fauna of your local area. You can do that by planting trees that are native to that area. A single tree that you will plant will become a house to many bird species. The more trees you plant, the more houses you will be provided to the birds. This will help us provide habitat to the bird species that are native to our locality. You should also talk to your neighbors and convince them to plant local trees so that your area offers more habitats for the bird.

2.   Avoiding Plastics

As mentioned above, plastic is one of the major causes of pollution and the death of millions of birds. We can prevent this by reducing the use of plastics. Instead of plastic bags for shopping, we should use biodegradable alternatives and products that do not contain any kind of plastic. It will help reduce the overall plastic pollution problem and will save millions of birds.

3.   Make Windows Safer For Birds

You can make the window panes safer for birds so that you can prevent their death from windowpane accidents. There are a lot of solutions that you can use. For a residential home, you can use netting on the outside of your window panes. It will help the birds identify the window panes as a solid structure and they will fly away. For commercial buildings, however, we should lobby the government bodies to pass some laws that can prevent the death by window pane accidents.

4.   Avoiding Pesticides

Pesticides are effective at killing pests because they contain poisonous chemicals. These poisonous chemicals can make their way into the bodies of the birds when these birds eat contaminated food or drink contaminated water. So, if we want to protect the birds, we should avoid using pesticides. There are safer options available that can kill the pests but will not contaminate the water, food, or soil. These safer pesticides would not kill the birds and that is why they should be used and the pesticides that kill birds should be banned.

5.   Restoring Habitats

We need to work on restoring the habitats of the birds. Reforestation and cleaning oceans, lakes, and rivers can help us restore the habitats of billions of birds. Reforestation will provide the local birds a place to live and the local bird species that migrated because of the deforestation will come back. Cleaning oceans, lakes, and rivers will help the migratory birds, and shoreline bird species as they will have a healthy habitat to live and it will help replenish their population.

6.   Keeping Your Pets Indoors

As you know that cats kill billions of birds every year, you should keep your cats and pets indoors during the day to prevent them from killing the birds. There are a lot of bird species that enjoy the human presence. These birds sometimes visit the houses closer to their habitat, and they might even settle in your backyard. But if you own a pet, your pet will terrorize the birds and can even kill them. So, it is better to keep your pets indoors during the day to make sure that they won’t murder any birds.

7.   Helping Efforts To Clean Oceans and Rivers

There are a lot of charities and organizations that are working on projects to clean oceans, lakes, and rivers. But they have limited resources, and people to do so. We must support such causes so that they will succeed in their mission. When these lakes, rivers, beaches, and oceans are polluted, millions of birds either die or migrate. So, once these places are cleaned up, these birds can return to their home.

8.   Support Research and Conservation Efforts

There are a lot of researchers from different scientific institutes that are researching birds. We should support those scientists in their research and also help in the conservation efforts. Conservation efforts can help save an endangered species, and scientific research can provide us with ways to help birds survive and replenish their population.

Bottom Line

Birds are an important part of biodiversity and the beauty of ecosystems. They play a major role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem and food chain. Recent scientific research published by the Journal of Science estimates that the United States and Canada are losing their bird population. According to this research paper, the overall population of birds in this region witnessed a 29% decline in just the last 50 years. That means the US and Canada lost more than 2.9 billion birds in just five decades. It is very important to investigate the causes of this loss, and ways to protect the birds. Because if we fail to do so, many more species of local and migratory birds from North America will soon become extinct and it would severely impact the overall ecosystem. We can help in this conservation effort by taking a few simple steps. For example, we can help the charities that are cleaning oceans, beaches, lakes, and rivers that are home to many shoreline birds. We can plant trees in our backyards, and lawns to attract birds and offer them a home. We can also take other steps such as banning plastics, avoiding pesticides, and restoring the habitats of the birds by reforestation efforts. All of these are the things that we can personally do to help the birds.


Question: Why are so many birds dying in 2022?

Answer: There are a lot of reasons for the death of millions of birds, including the use of pesticides, destruction of habitats, collusion with human-made structures, cars, airplanes, extreme weather conditions, plastics, oil spills, and some other.

Question: How many birds live in North America?

Answer: According to scientific surveys, there are more than 7.2 billion birds in North America. Previously, this number was greater than 10 billion. These statistics show that the avifauna population of North America is declining rapidly.

Question: Do wind turbines kill birds?

Answer: Yes, wind turbines can also kill birds. They have blades and they are most often placed near shorelines and high altitudes. These are the areas where many migratory and local bird species live. When they fly, there is a chance they can get hit by the blades of the wind turbine.

Question: How can noise pollution kill birds?

Answer: Noise pollution can also kill the birds by restricting their ability to communicate. For example, BBC recently reported that adult sparrows were unable to listen to the baby sparrows when they were crying for food because of the urban noises and that led to the death of those baby sparrows. Noise pollution also impacts the time of sleep of the birds and can cause stress as they are unable to sleep because of the noise.

Question: Does climate change have an impact on the bird population decline?

Answer: Yes, climate change also has an impact on the bird population decline. Climate change causes extreme changes in weather conditions of the area. For example, it can make hot areas hotter, and cold areas colder. This type of change affects the birds as they cannot live in these new conditions. They either migrate to a new location or die in that area.