FLYING IN FRIENDLIER SKIES
INTEREST IN BIRDS SPIKES!
By Dr. Carole Griffiths, TEAC
Are there more birds around since the COVID lockdown? There have been many newspaper reports and anecdotal stories of more birds singing since this crisis began. Is this perception real? What has been the effect of the COVID lockdown on birds?
For those of us in New York (and the northern hemisphere in general), spring migration of songbirds is the time when these birds are most visible and also the time when they sing the most. This year, the timing of songbird spring migration (roughly April and May) occurred concomitant with the lockdown.
A whopping 36 feeder ports draw goldfinches to a thistle-seed feast. Goldfinches are plentiful in Tarrytown, thanks in part to the healthy native plant gardening in the area.
One benefit from the lockdown has been a decrease in traffic and, for a while, a total banning of lawn mowers and leaf blowers, leading to a decrease in air pollution and a decrease in noise pollution.
Birds are sensitive to ambient noise: there has been much research showing that birds adjust their songs based on the level of ambient noise. So – less ambient sound – more bird song.
A second benefit for birds is that they may increase the places they use, moving into areas that are closer to roads with the decrease in traffic.
Finally, the lockdown has led to more people gardening, walking outside, and generally becoming more interested in natural areas and in wildlife. There has been a world-wide increase in people feeding birds. According to the University of East Anglia School of Economics, “Google searches for bird feeders increased by 17%, and over 60 countries have reported increases in bird feeding. In the US, the interest was even greater in areas close to good bird habitat."
In the United States, "downloads of two of the most popular bird identification apps have spiked, and preliminary numbers show sales of things like binoculars, bird feeders and birdseed have jumped even as sales of other nonessential consumer goods are plummeting. The trend coincides with the peak migratory season and nesting season, giving newfound birders a front-row seat to some of nature's biggest shows” (https://kval.com/outdoors/quarantine-is-for-the-birds-bird-watching-soars-amid-covid-19-as-americans-head-outdoors
So – are more birds singing? The answer is no. We are just able to hear songs better, and closer, and we are becoming more aware of the nature around us.