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Why A Decrease In 3 Billion North American Birds Matters

Birds gather to feed in the Tijuana River Estuary on Sept. 5, 2017.

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: Birds gather to feed in the Tijuana River Estuary on Sept. 5, 2017.

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In the half-century since 1970, the number of birds in North America has declined by an estimated three billion — that's a 29 percent decrease.

Aired: October 1, 2019 | Transcript

In the half-century since 1970, the number of birds in North America has declined by an estimated 3 billion — that's a 29 percent decrease, according to a recent study published in Science Magazine.

The decrease in the number of North American birds is being seen across a large variety of species.

This is a direct result, researchers say, of humans altering the natural world.

Philip Unitt is the author of "The San Diego County Bird Atlas" and a curator and specialist in California birds at the San Diego Natural History Museum. He says the decrease in birds is being caused by habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, pesticide use and climate change impacts, such as drought and fires.

"The planet needs to sustain a broad spectrum of life, it's going to sustain human life," Unitt said. "We still have a very fuzzy idea of all the ecological connections that are out there and to cast aside the pieces that constitute that network when we still don't understand how it works is really shortsighted."

RELATED: Western Bird Species Are Struggling In Face Of Rapidly Changing Climate

Unitt joined Midday Edition on Tuesday to discuss the study and what bird species are decreasing locally.

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