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Shifts in Habitat = Shifts in Species

Big changes in the northeastern US

We asked David Sibley, creator and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, how changes in the environment are affecting birds such as this Brown Thrasher. He says, “A shift of habitat has caused a shift in the species” he's observed in the Northeastern US. For example, Wild Turkeys, Pileated Woodpeckers, and Cooper’s Hawks do really well in woodlands. A hundred years ago, it was all farmland. Today, species like the Eastern Meadowlark, Field Sparrow and Brown Thrasher are having a hard time, because that there’s not much farmland left.

Full Transcript



Shifts in Habitat Cause Shifts in Bird Species

An Interview with David Sibley

By Chris Peterson

This is BirdNote!

[Call and drumming of Red-bellied Woodpecker]

We asked David Sibley, creator and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, if he’s seeing changes with birds as the result of changes in the environ-ment. 

Yah, I see big, big changes. Now my experience is mostly in the Northeast. …I can think back to 1970 when I was a kid, birding there and compare that to now, and I can remember getting really excited, and with my father and my brother jumping in the car to chase a Red-bellied Woodpecker that had shown up at a birdfeeder near us in Connecticut.

And now people laugh about that! Red-bellied Woodpecker is one of the com-monest backyard birds in Connecticut, through the whole state…

[Repeat Red-bellied call and or drumming]

What about other species in the Northeast?

“Wild Turkey [Calls of Wild Turkeys] Pileated Woodpecker has become much more common. Cooper’s Hawk… +… they do really well in woodlands, …which is what we have a lot of now in Connecticut. A hundred years ago it was all farm-land and now it’s all reverted back to mostly forest. [Calls of flock of Wild Tur-keys]

And species like Eastern Meadowlark and Field Sparrow and Brown Thrasher that like the fields and edges and hedgerows are having a hard time now that there’s not very much farmland left. [Song of Field Sparrow]

It’s really a shift of habitat that has caused a shift in the species.

What changes in bird populations are you seeing? Share your story at


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Itha-ca, New York. Red-bellied Woodpecker 102195 recorded by David W. Stemple; Wild Turkey 50137 and Field Sparrow 50244 both recorded by G. A. Keller

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2014 Tune In to  August 2018  Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#   sibleyd-04-2014-08-20  sibleyd-04

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