As a child walking to school every weekday morning, especially in the fall and spring, I remember huge flocks of birds flying overhead. I also remember my dad having to wash the front window of our car frequently because of the numerous splattered bugs and bird poop. Nowadays, as an adult, it seems that I may have not remember correctly from my childhood. Maybe that I’m just not noticing as many migrating birds, losing my sense of childhood wonder, or that we live on a dirt road and our car needs to be washed quite frequently no matter. Or perhaps that things did change since.
After reading A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul, I discovered that our earth actually did lose approximately a third of our bird population since my childhood days. The challenge of preserving global migration patterns has brought on numerous research projects and monitoring methods, from Christmas bird counts, banding, radar, audio networks, big data, and miniaturization of tracking electronics, each with their limitations and benefits. Along with studying migrations, stopovers, habitat loss, and climate change, ornithologists are also looking at how birds even protect themselves while on long flights of thousands and even tens of thousands of miles. How birds fail to develop loss of cognitive function when sleep deprived, how they safeguard their biological functions and organs, and how their genetically-coded roadmap works. Some ornithologists are even attempting to distinguish adaption to climate change between evolution or plasticity.
Throughout all of this book, Weidensaul emphasizes that “science is a process, one where ideas are proposed, tested, and discarded if new evidence demands it. Any good researcher (if they’re being true to the scientific method) ought to say, ‘We used to think, but now we think’” (p. 100).
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