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Former Abundance

On a November day in the late 1960s, flying in a light plane along the Mississippi River, the eminent waterfowl biologist Frank Bellrose came upon a raft of 450,000 Lesser Scaups that stretched for miles. Protection, restoration, and enhancement of habitats used during all seasons are under way to enable the population of ducks - like these Lesser Scaups - to rebound. Learn more about the State of the Birds at

Full Transcript

Former Abundance of the Natural World

By Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote.
 [Sound of a light plane]
On a November day in the late 1960s, flying in a light plane along the Mississippi River, the eminent waterfowl biologist, Frank Bellrose, came upon a flock of Lesser Scaups that stretched for miles. Bellrose estimated the number of ducks in this one flock to be 450,000. Accompanying the scaups were large concentrations of Canvasback, Ring-Necked, and Goldeneye ducks.
[Sounds of the wings of a large flock of ducks taking flight]
Today the ducks in that single flock would comprise more than 10% of all the scaups remaining in North America.
[Sounds and calls of Lesser Scaups]
The birds’ former abundance is proof of the great depth and richness of the natural webs that support all life, including our own. Think of the money, energy, food, time and effort it would take to produce a flock of 450,000 birds. These are services Nature provides spontaneously and for free.
What has become of these great flocks and what has been our role in their demise? What will happen if we lose sight of this abundance? What does its loss portend for our own future?
Will we share the world or will we overrun it?
[Sounds of Lesser Scaup, male then female]
For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.
Lesser Scaup sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by W.W.H. Gunn.
Sounds of Lesser Scaup taking off recorded by Martyn Stewart, NatureSound Productions.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2009 Tune In to Revised for Nov. 2009

ID# 052306LESCKPLU decline-04b-2009-11-04-MM


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