Have the types of birds who visit your yard or your nearby parks and waterways changed dramatically in the past few months? The white-throated sparrows have arrived in my yard after leaving their breeding grounds in Canada, but many of the shorebirds who I enjoyed as they initiated their late-summer journeys to the south are long gone.
I’m searching my yard daily for the arrival of the dark-eyed juncos who will spend the winter with my resident Northern cardinals, Eastern blue-jays, nuthatches, and American goldfinches. At PETA headquarters, there are long streams of migrating waterfowl flying south, with good wishes from all of us to avoid the guns of those who kill for sport.
Migration is truly a wondrous spectacle. Small warblers who breed in the boreal forests of Canada are now reaching their wintering grounds in South America. How do those little guys do it? We now have range maps for almost every species (I love the Peterson Field Guides; what do you use?) and have a pretty good idea of where birds go on their journeys south and north. And although understanding doesn’t automatically breed respect, it does help those who fight for the protection of not just the species but also the individual.
I’m thrilled that strip malls and agricultural monocultures are combated by wetlands protection measures and conservation reserves on farmland. I’m also thrilled that hard-fought campaigns have eliminated some of the threats to individuals. After a PETA investigation revealed that thousands of songbirds were being burned alive or starved to death in oil company exhaust stacks in 26 states and a protest campaign was launched to demand change, Mobil, Texaco, Phillips Petroleum, and other industry giants agreed in 1995 to put caps on all their stacks. This simple measure prevented migrating birds from roosting on or entering the lethal stacks.
Although the federal government continues to use our tax dollars to kill birds on behalf of the dairy and meat industries, PETA members will make it even safer for future avian generations. So be at peace when you look at our traveling feathered friends.
A few weeks ago, I stood in quiet ecstasy as hundreds and hundreds of common grackles and European starlings flew around me (almost into me!) and into the shrubs and trees, some so close that I could hear their wings, even over their raucous calls.
Who have you seen lately?