I recently received an email from local birdwatcher Diane Knowles. She was concerned about a drop-off in the numbers of small birds she was seeing in the Carpinteria downtown area. With her permission I’m reproducing our exchange below.
— John Callender
Subject: Carp birds
From: Diane Knowles
I’m a bird lover and live in downtown Carpinteria. I have noticed the last 3 weeks that there are no small birds in the downtown areas. I have sat in the Albertsons parking lot, by the train station and outside my apt. near Aliso school. I used to wake up to bird chatter and now nothing. No sparrows, finch not even the common pigeon. The hearty birds Crow and Seagull are still around. Has anyone in your group noticed this? Concerned.
To: Diane Knowles
From: John Callender
Hi Diane! Thanks for reaching out about birds. I saw your posting on nextdoor.com, and was glad Tom was able to direct you to our website.
I’m not aware of any specific dropoff in bird numbers with small birds locally, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.
The world of birds is complicated, and I’m just an amateur, so take my opinions with a grain of salt. We’re certainly living through a time of intense, sustained pressure on wild bird populations, with things like habitat loss, insecticide use, and human-caused climate change making life a lot tougher for a lot of birds. You probably saw the recent long-term study that found dramatic declines in North American bird populations over the last 30 years (see the website https://www.3billionbirds.org/ for more about that). So any changes you’ve noticed could be a reflection of that larger trend.
On a more positive note, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about birds it’s that they aren’t evenly distributed in the landscape. They clump up, and they move around a lot. In a sense mobility is their defining characteristic. So as food and other resources become available in different places they shift from place to place in ways that can look quite dramatic from a birdwatcher’s perspective.
We’re also at a time of year (late in the breeding season, but before most fall migrants or wintering populations have begun to arrive) when overall bird numbers can seem lower in our area than average, just because a lot of birds that spend time here during the rest of the year are in other places now. White-crowned sparrows, for example, are a species that we get a lot of during the winter, but are completely absent from Carpinteria currently.
Others in our Carpinteria Birdwatchers group would probably be interested in your question, and might have useful responses. If it’s okay with you I could post our email exchange on our website and see what people have to say. Let me know how you feel about that. You could also join one of our monthly Zoom meetings or public outings (see our website for details for the upcoming schedule for those) and discuss it with our members there.
Hope that helps.