Common Grackles are not so common anymore. And the situation for whip-poor-willls is even worse.
A recent update of bird population status shows that this grackle species has seen a population decline of more than 50 percent since 1970, 48 years ago.
Common Grackles now are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It maintains what is known as the Red List. This is a record of how close a bird species might be to extinction.
It is thought that pest-control measures might have contributed to the decline. Pest control is the language used by my source for this information, the monthly Birding Community e-Bulletin. I imagine that refers to pesticides and the significant reduction of insect populations we are experiencing, due in large part to over-use of pesticides.
Eastern Whip-poor-wills, completely dependent on insects for food, have experienced a population decline of over 60 percent. They, too, are listed as Near Threatened. Again, the steep decline — almost a disappearance in some areas — of flying insects is the problem.
A third species apparently is becoming a victim of climate change. Rufous Hummingbird is said in the newsletter to be “sliding toward extinction.” This western hummer is a migrant. It could be in jeopardy because the flowers from which it gets nectar are blooming earlier these days, the birds returning after peak blossoming. This also reduces the population of insects, drawn by the flowers, that provide the protein portion of the bird’s diet.
A warming climate speeds growth and maturity of plants, producing early blooms. Wild fire and post-fire ground conditions also could be a factor. The Rufous Hummingbird migrates through California both spring and fall. The fires recently suffered there surely will have an impact on future plant growth, both species and possibility. (The ground can be burned to a crust, making it difficult for seeds to take hold. Or, ground can be covered with ash or mud., inhibiting regrowth.)
On the plus side, Red-headed Woodpecker and Henslow’s Sparrow populations have stabilized.
Common Grackles becoming uncommon is difficult to accept. Big, noisy, glitzy birds no longer at my feeders? That hits home. And whip-poor-wills, perhaps the best reason to find brushy fields on early-summer evenings, well, summer won’t be the same without the bird’s repetitive call faintly heard as night falls. (Shhh, listen. Whip-poor-wills!)
We’ve done this not just to the birds, but to ourselves.
You can find a summary here: