Spring is here, and that means songbirds waking you up from your morning slumber or flitting overhead when you’re outside. Unfortunately, the number of songbirds is dropping, and folks are scrambling to figure out why.
After airing on The Nature of Things as “SongbirdSOS,” The Messenger flies to Documentary Channel on Tuesday with expanded footage and more stunning visuals. Throughout history, man has viewed birds both as mythical beings and as harbingers of changing weather and seasons. Now, their diminishing song is hinting at something catastrophic.
Beautifully shot, with cameras capturing clouds of birds swirling in unison with thunderclouds in the background, Bill Evans’ hearing aid microphone contraption proves smaller songbirds migrate at night when predators can’t see them (something radar proves with blooming imagery spreading across the United States as the sun sets), chirping to avoid mid-air collisions.
As York University’s Dr. Bridget Stutchbury notes, species of birds still exist, but their numbers are way down. The question is, why?
The Messenger suggests sobering answers. Mankind’s creation of artificial light has messed with the birds’ ability to migrate during the night, disorienting them and causing midair collisions. And, of course, we’ve constructed huge skyscrapers that songbirds fly into, a point driven home by FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) Canada when they lay out the bodies of hundreds of dead birds on a plain white sheet for all to see.
Lost breeding and wintering habitats in rain forests, wetlands and boreal forests, oil pipelines and farm pesticides are contributing to declining song bird numbers, as well as house cats.
On the positive side, there are steps being taken to halt the dropping populations, including allowing birds to feast on hurtful insects in Costa Rican coffee fields and mandating building owners to switch off the lights at night. Hopefully enough changes will come in time to save the songbirds before their tunes cease.
The Messenger airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on Documentary Channel.
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