I’m doing my part

Most of the news coverage about West Nile Virus has focused on the fact that, unfortunately, it is occasionally fatal for humans.  Sadly, for birds, it is not just occasionally fatal, but a real epidemic:

Several common species of North American birds have suffered drastic
population declines since the arrival of the West Nile virus eight
years ago, leaving rural and suburban areas quieter than they used to
be and imposing ecological stresses on a variety of other animals and
plants, a new study has found.

In Maryland, for example, 2005 chickadee populations were 68 percent lower than would have been expected had West Nile not arrived, and in Virginia chickadee populations were 50 percent below that prediction…

It shows that the post-1998 declines were greatest at times and places
in which the virus was especially prevalent — as indicated by the
number of human infections diagnosed. As expected, American crows were
among the worst hit, suffering declines of as much as 45 percent in
some regions and wipeouts of 100 percent in some smaller areas. Other
species that suffered included the blue jay, the tufted titmouse, the
American robin, the house wren, the chickadee and — unexpectedly —
the American bluebird.

On the positive side, as you can see here

I'm doing my part to help with the bluebird numbers as these two little chicks are in a bluebird box but 12 feet from my kitchen window.  It is quite rewarding to watch the parents build the nest, incubate the eggs, and then quite devotedly feed the hungry baby chicks for the next two weeks.  Amazingly, these scrawny little things in the picture will grow enough to fly off on their own in about 10 days. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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