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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Life in the city

Here's something you don't see every ibis on a power line. Then again, you don't usually see young White Ibis with arrows through their chest either. Apparently, somebody in Florida shot this bird with a practice arrow, and authorities spent two weeks trying to capture the bird to give it medical attention. When those efforts failed, they called off the attempt. Seems the bird is doing OK, hanging out with other birds, and can fly. But what an urban bird horror story!

Besides stray arrows, urban areas pose some of the greatest hazards faced by birds in North America. Fully 10% of all the birds in North America are killed each year by a combination of feral and outdoor house cats (1 billion killed each year) and plate glass windows (another 1 billion killed). That doesn't even count the tens of millions killed by collisions with cars or poisoned by pesticides, or any of the other urban hazards. Is it any wonder that many songbird populations are declining?

So, while bird feeders and handouts from people may encourage some species to hang with their human homies, the hood can be a dangerous place for many birds. One of our biggest challenges of the next century will be to find a way to co-exist with more bird species as the rate of urbanization and exurban residential development continues to escalate. One way to think about this is in terms of win-win or reconciliation ecology.

Can we create cities and suburbs that are as good for birds--even those that usually don't do well in urbanized areas--as they are for people? Can we envision housing developments or commercial districts with Sage Sparrows or Golden-cheeked Warblers living on the roof? Buildings that look more like shrubby or forested hillsides--both to us and to the birds (like the ACROS building in Fukuoka, Japan pictured here)? What is it going to take to start creating habitat, rather than just destroying it, every time we want to "develop" a piece of property? Yeah, baby! That's the kind of progress I'm willing to support.

1 comment:

Nuthatch said...

Last year one of the wild peacocks in the city of Detroit (yes, there is at least one neighborhood where they've gone feral in the urban prairie) was shot in the neck with some sort of dart -- in one side and just bulging on the other, not pierced through. Same thing, bird seemed fine, nobody could catch it. Why can't people shoot at inanimate objects?

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