Nearly 500 species of birds make their way through Colorado or live here year-around – and chances are local birder and author Evelyn Horn knows them. In the second report of a two-part series, KVNF’s Marty Durlin talked to Horn about the general decline of birds in a world where human population and activity is on the rise.
I asked her what she could say about the state of birds, whether climate change is impacting them, and certainly human activity as Evy has talked about. How would she characterize their condition?
Horn replied, “Declining. Because of the conditions. There used to be a lot more birds than there are now. And house cats. When a little bird gets down and goes scratch, scratch, scratch, he’s vulnerable.”
I asked her if the species themselves was declining, or just the numbers?
“The species themselves,” Horn answered. “The cranes, in particular – there are five subspecies. Ours are greater, they’re declining. The other three are non-migratory. But the lesser sandhills that go up the Platte River, they’re 500,000 strong. Every other crane in the world is threatened or endangered, to whatever degree. And that’s primarily human activity. The roads we build, that slices up the terrain. When we put a road in, we create a little border area. So this little road doesn’t look like much but it’s got a border area. Well that’s a good place for animals, for critters, also a good place to get run over.”
I asked her if she noticed anything about climate change? Or the effect of drought?
“Yes. We’re in a drought,” said Horn. “And from where we were standing, sometimes the water is all along the north side, north of the road. And further up, where it just looks like alkali now, cranes like to stand in the water 6-8 inches deep to roost, so a predator makes noise. And that north pond was just perfect roosting. Well, we didn’t have it at all this year. So they had to make do with the shoreline. And the closer they get to the shore, the more likely there will be a predator. Bobcat’s a big one. Fox, coyote, Feral dogs, cats. Bobcat is the biggest predator on them. And a mink, or one of the muskrats might decide to take a bite, because they’re too close to the shore where those critters live.”
According to Horn, “We have been highly impacted this year with the drought and the lack of water. In the past we have, too – I’ve seen the reservoir just virtually disappear. It was built as an irrigation reservoir and that is its purpose, and I wish we could have some sort of agreement that we don’t draw down until the 10th of May, but that doesn’t go with their crops, they draw it down when they need it. I just feel we’re lucky to find the birds. The birds found the water, and the birders found the birds.”
To record your own observations about birds or the rest of the world around you, got to thealmanac.org.