Why are birds disappearing? After 40 years, scientists still don’t have a clear answer

NORFOLK, United Kingdom — The reasons behind a worrying 25-percent decline in the number of migratory birds over the last 40 years remains a mystery, a new study explains. Scientists in the United Kingdom say “time is running out” to find the answer and birds summering in Europe and wintering in Africa need more protection than ever before.

According to the findings, bad luck having babies and short lifespans are two factors that could be to blame. However, since this problem is on an intercontinental scale, scientists still have no definitive answers regarding the disappearance of birds. The issue is significantly more pressing for some species, including Cuckoos, Swifts, and Turtle Doves.

Researchers with RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) say understanding why this is happening is difficult due to the birds travelling such vast distances and depending on multiple locations at different times of the year. When they’re not breeding, birds spread out across a massive expanse, creating another hurdle in finding the cause.

As a result, researchers argue that site-specific conservation efforts at a small number of locations could be unhelpful. Instead, RSPB and BTO teams believe wintering and breeding habitats spanning Europe and Africa need improvement.

Resolutions may lie in planting and conserving native trees in African wintering regions, fixing-up significant locations where birds stop to refuel mid-migration, and protecting some species from hunting along the migration routes. The lack of answers comes despite conservationists working in the “golden age” of migrant research, with new tracking technology providing unprecedented insight into bird behavior.

“Although we have learnt a lot about migrant birds in the past seven years, we are still no closer to understanding what is driving the declines of most of these species,” says Dr. John Mallord, an RSPB senior conservation scientist, according to a statement provided by SWNS. “We need to shift the focus from species-specific diagnostic research and start to use what we do already know to inform conservation actions on the ground.”

BTO Chief Executive Professor Juliet Vickery, lead author of the paper published in IBIS, is calling for action.

“Our declining migrant birds need action,” Vickery says in a statement. “Although it remains important to continue some diagnostic research, particularly tagging and tracking birds, resources need to be focused on trialing solutions based on what we know already.”

“This is not just about the conservation of individual species but the preservation of a spectacular phenomenon that has inspired humans for generations,” the lead author continues.

“We must afford a higher priority to addressing the declines of widespread and relatively common birds, not least because these carry a stronger warning about the health of our natural world than is the case for of rare and threatened species.”

“The time has come to begin putting what we know into practice,” a BTO spokesperson adds, according to SWNS. “If we wait until our understanding of these birds’ declines is complete, it may already be too late.”

South West News Service writer Pol Allingham contributed to this report.

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  1. It doesn’t help that irresponsible cat owners allow their pets to roam freely. Those cats and feral cats kill billions of birds and small mammals every year, making cats THE WORST invasive species on the planet. You can START there in wondering WHERE the birds have gone

  2. Maybe, just maybe, its been the installation of 10’s of thousands of wind turbines (bird choppers) that are installed without regard for bird and bat flyways. Besides physical impact with blades, the low frequency infrasound is a known cause of ill effects in birds and humans. Add to the wind turbines the millions of square meters of reflective glass solar panels that may be effecting birds navigation and local micro environment. Rise in number of these two technologies coincides with the decline in bird numbers all in the name of reducing CO2, the greatest natural fertilizer known…

  3. Insect populations are down globally. Natural wetland habitats have dried up and continue to do so. Remove food and habitat….there should be no mystery at this point as to bird disappearance.

  4. Its Radio Frequencies caused by your cell phone. They arent disappearing they are just trying to evade your cell signals

  5. This exactly why I don’t trust “scientists”. Look around you. We have become a electromagnetic nightmare. You scientists need to find other jobs. smdh

  6. My city encourages feral cats…Feral cats kill everything that walks, crawls or flies.
    “Outside cats” kill billions of birds across the US.

    1. Feral cats kill billions of wild birds every year. Now add in chemicals, pollution, wind turbines, and chemtrails and we’re ALL headed for extinction.

    2. Billions? Do you have any evidence to support that claim? I know cats eat plenty of birds, but you really believe feral cats are “the problem?” Killing “billions of birds?”

    3. Feral cats exist only in densely populated urban areas. Out in the countryside, feral cats have very short lifespans. Eagles. Hawks. Owls. Pythons. Coyotes. Wild dogs. They don’t stand a chance.

  7. Windmills are killing migratory birds, yet they are given a free pass to kill them. Everyone else faces a fine and even jail time. Why is this?

  8. It is certainly not a mystery and bad luck is a myth! Humans are responsible for this dilemma and need to take action. Save our natural resources leaving enough healthy habitats for humans, animals, insects, & microbes to survive. Stop using pesticides. Stop polluting our land and air. Ban hunting. Slow development. Control population. DO SOMETHING before it’s too late!

  9. More wind “farms” equals fewer birds.

    But hey, let’s save the planet from global warming/cooling/climate change/whatever. . .

  10. Don’t worry, we will be wiping ourselves out with a nuclear war within a decade so the planet can heal once a few hundred million of us are gone.

  11. Simple answer chemicals in our chemical ready seeds we plant. Chemical up to kill bugs chemicals seeping into our waterways Yard chemicals for green grass chemical bugs and dandelions. Chemicals to kill mosquitoes. Just to name a few . My take is Chemicals. Wear gloves or rubber boots pet friendly BS. Overused Chemicals

  12. Birds are disappearing. It’s almost like there are huge whirling blades mechanically chopping up flocks of birds… of all kinds(!)…or sumtin.

  13. Perhaps if they stopped spraying the skies with poisonous nano particles of aluminum, barium, and strontium the birds would not be dying in mases. Stratospheric aerosol injections. You know, those tubes that go from horizon to horizon and rather than dissipate they spread out making the sky gray all in the name of combatting global warming.

      1. It’s simple – but not so simple to solve
        1. Massive over fishing and radioactive contamination killing the ocean as a primary food source.
        2. Unregulated pesticides, herbicides and GMO is extremely destructive to wildlife
        3. Global warming is disrupting food and water availability. Additionally, causing more frequent extreme weather events.
        4. Many food sources such as insects, amphibians, ect, are becoming extinct and harder to find for bird populations, so they are the decline.

        It starts with the smallest things in the ecosystem and works its way up. It has made it’s way all the way to the Aves families, so it is too late for technologies to catchup to solve these problems. It looks pretty bleak.

  14. Spend some time on any lake and it will be obvious. Look at the trees. The birds cannot reproduce because their nests are destroyed by the constant chemtrail winds that are destroying nests and trees.
    In the past decade, I have seen the Bald Eagles even diminished by these winds and in the fall, you can see all of the nests are in tatters, ripped apart every time the airplanes spray the skies.
    I have found smashed eggs, dead baby squirrels and seen trees completely blown over.

  15. I’m not sure why this is a mystery..? One reason, if you research it, is the 50-100+ birds struck a day by planes and helicopters, most of which goes unreported.. if you google it, you’ll find tons of news agencies and universities have researched this problem over the years. This is still occuring..

    So if you factor this in with climate change and research behind birds falling out of this skies, then this is not as much a mystery as a massive problem.

    We also know (and you can also research it yourself) that whales and other sea life are struck by ships on a daily basis, and truckers mow down tons of wildlife every single day on the interstates… so land, air, and sea are all covered by man kinds’ exodus towards an extinction event, all in the name of chasing the almighty dollar.

    1. There are 10-20 billion birds in the US today. What you’re describing wouldn’t account for any substantial or noticeable loss. Insecticides reducing bird food starts to sound more plausible given the chemicals people dump on their lawns.

  16. Powerful insecticides including organophosphates decreased bird food insect abundance which resulted in bird abundance decline. Charts show the effects clearly, insecticide scientists are not ignorant of what is occurring.

  17. Why would any of the “global warming” scientists admit to that? They are on the payroll of those who pay them to continue this befuddled nonsense, that will lead to a disaster if it does not stop.

  18. A lot of causes correctly cited in the comments, adding domestic cats to the list, which kill a lot of song birds every year (recall reading that it’s ~1B/year worldwide)

  19. Remember 40 years ago when they claimed to know what the problem was and banned insert killers which resulted in millions of dead Africans?

  20. Not hard to figure out actually. Destruction of their natural habitats along their migratory routes and, in the case of geese, over harvesting by third world countries like Mexico. Chemical pollution does have a negative effect but much smaller compaired to habitat and over harvesting.

  21. We are killing the biosphere ,we just set a global record with our overpopulation ! The oceans are the first tipping point ocean heat record this past year

  22. Check under the bird blenders producing intermittent electricity. It’s like getting hit with a baseball bat, and we’ve put them in the pathways of the major air currents… the same currents the larger birds use. Called it 10 years ago… do we ever consider consequences or do we just assume we are doing “good” for the planet?

  23. We poison the air, the water, the soil, the electromagnetic fields around us, and each of us, including the animals, have their own electromagnetic fields and sensitivities to them. Cell towers, radio waves, microwaves, satellites, and so on. Is it any wonder that a sensitive creature like birds, and also the insects, are affected by our casual and corrosive doings?

  24. In our immediate area of Sussex we have experienced noticeable birdlife reduction in both numbers and species over the last few years. We are convinced this is due to there being less farm animals on the land, their droppings / dung being the necessary food / ground enrichment etc for insects. Result – less insects – less birds. Nothing else has changed in our area – not loads of fertilizer or weedkilling sprays as often blamed.

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