Previous Earth First articles have dealt with the issue of threatened species, how human activity has contributed to their threatened status and what could be done to save them from extinction.
This week readers are invited to read about three examples of human-bird interactions which should cause us to consider our responsibilities to the other living creatures on our planet.
The passenger pigeon in the mid-19th century was not only the most numerous bird in North America, but probably in the world, with an estimated population of three billion.
Reports were made of a huge flock a mile wide which blocked out the sun for three days.
Demand for their tasty flesh resulted in the passenger pigeon being being hunted indiscriminately, which, added to habitat destruction due to forest clearing, resulted in their downfall.
By 1871 their numbers were down to 136 million.
Despite this dramatic reduction in their population, a leading huntsman stated “shooting and hunting (of these birds) should continue. No exploitation could endanger a creature so abundant”.
So shooting, trapping and the torching of nesting sites continued.
Our huntsman was wrong. By 1900 there were no passenger pigeons left in the wild.
Two other bird species on our own doorstep have been also savaged by the human race, but have so far avoided extinction.
The magpie goose, an Australian native species with a population of approximately three million, has been killed in great numbers for food.
Quotas have been reduced in the face of dwindling numbers and open season now only lasts 11 weeks.
Nevertheless a licenced shooter can take seven geese a day, so if 100 licences are issued, the “take” could theoretically still be as high as 54,000 birds.
The American hunter believed no amount of exploitation could affect a creature so abundant … and they had three billion pigeons, while we have only three million geese. Can we learn from the American experience?
Another example is the short-tailed shearwater, also known as muttonbird because of its tasty flesh and the fact that it provided a staple diet for generations of early white settlers.
Mutton bird oil lit lamps and was used for cooking. Their eggs were a highly-prized delicacy.
Unfortunately, since white settlement millions of muttonbirds have been killed for their eggs, flesh and oil, but unlike the passenger pigeon, they seem to have weathered the slaughter and their numbers remain strong. They are now protected.
Some would say that these examples are from less enlightened times, and that we have developed a better and more ecologically sound relationship with our feathered friends.
Let us hope so, but the past shouldn’t give us cause for too much optimism.
The value of Where Song Began by Tim Low and Viking Books for the statistics in this article is gratefully acknowledged.
About Pigeon Patrol:
Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor of bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.
Voted Best Canadian wholesaler for Bird Deterrent products four years in a row.
Contact Info: 1- 877– 4– NO-BIRD (www.pigeonpatrol.ca)