A study in 2019 found that North American bird populations had declined by three billion birds in the past 50 years. Tenijah Hamilton, the host of Bring Birds Back podcast, talked to biostatistician Adam C. Smith about how scientists arrived at this shocking number. The hard work of volunteers counting birds every year helped reveal a drastic loss in bird numbers and led to new conservation efforts.
How to Count Three Billion Birds
Written by Mark Bramhill
This is BirdNote.
In 2019, a study was published in the journal Science that found that North American bird populations have declined by 30% in the past 50 years — a loss of three billion birds. The study got a lot of peoples’ attention, and led to new conservation efforts. A whole team of scientists worked on the study, including biostatistician Adam C. Smith. He’s the one who crunched the data and came up with that headlining number. But Adam says that their findings wouldn’t have been possible without years of work from volunteer community scientists logging bird data.
Adam C Smith: We had all the data, we've got 50 years of hard work, lifetimes of work to rely on because of skilled and committed volunteer birders. Without those data, we would not be able to run these models. We would not know how those numbers have changed over the last 50 years.
Through programs like the North American Breeding Bird Survey and annual Christmas Bird Counts, everyday people like you and me have played an essential role in conservation. And Adam knows how valuable that is:
Adam C Smith: I swim in gratitude all the time. It's just, it's just incredible.
You can hear more from Adam, including how you can be a part of these amazing community science efforts, on our new podcast: Bring Birds Back. Follow the show in your podcast app, or listen at BirdNote.org. I’m Tenijah Hamilton.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Digital Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds recorded by Gordon Hempton.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2021 BirdNote June 2021 Narrator: Tenijah Hamilton
ID# PodBBB-02-2021-06-08 PodBBB-02