Bald eagle dies of gunshot wound in Indiana, reward offered

A bullet struck a protected bald eagle in Indiana, leading to the bird’s death, officials said Sunday.

Indiana Conservation Officer Ryan Jahn was investigating the shooting of the bald eagle Saturday in Lawrence County, officials said.

Build UP’s Ruben Morris is changing the trajectory for his students by helping them earn their high school diploma, an associate’s degree and a paid apprenticeship to …

“The eagle was found alive south of the White River near Dixie Road, but later succumbed to the gunshot wound,” Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

A bald eagle in Indiana was hit by a bullet and later died from its wound, officials said.

A bald eagle in Indiana was hit by a bullet and later died from its wound, officials said. (Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement)


A reward was being offered for information that leads to an arrest, according to the agency.

The killing of a bald eagle is a violation of the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Violators face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.

As of 2008, bald eagles are no longer considered endangered in Indiana.

Researchers still track data on bald eagles to monitor the health of the population and learn more about their behavioral patterns.

Oldest Known King Eider Found 23 Years After Oil Spill Care

Oldest Known King Eider Found 23 Years After Oil Spill Care

December 20, 2019

Male King Eiders are super colorful sea ducks commonly found in the Arctic waters of the Bering Sea.. CC photo by Ron Knight

A new bird banding report shows something truly remarkable: the oldest known King Eider – a species of sea duck – was a 24-year-old oil spill survivor cared for by International Bird Rescue. This finding proves once again that rehabilitated, formerly-oiled birds can survive many years after treatment and release back to the wild.

The latest discovery involves a male King Eider that was oiled as an adult during an oil spill in Alaska in 1996. The recovered bird survived 23 years after oiling and release, and according to federal banding information, this may well be the oldest known King Eider.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Bird Banding Lab, which administers the scientific banding or ringing of wild birds in the U.S., the previously oldest recorded King Eider was an unoiled female that was at least 22 years 1 month old when she was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in Nunavut, Canada.

In 1996 rescued King Eiders were cleaned of oil after being flown to Anchorage from the Pribilof Islands. Photo © International Bird Rescue

This important news underscores what Bird Rescue has been advocating from its beginnings: oiled birds can and DO survive to live normal lives when rehabilitated after oiling, with appropriate resources and skilled staff. This is especially true when wildlife experts follow the protocols that have been refined over our nearly 50-year history.

Watch the video: Every Release Matters

“Bird Rescue has developed and remains at the forefront of the State of the Science for oiled wildlife treatment and rehabilitation,’ said Catherine Berg, NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator for Alaska. At the time of the spill, Berg was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Oil Spill Coordinator for Alaska.

“Seeing this kind of evidence of rehabilitated bird survival is truly a tribute to their dedication to the advancement of the science and to improving the care of injured birds.” Berg added.

The long-lived eider is also a testament to both Bird Rescue’s and the State of Alaska’s commitment to the successful concept of having a centralized response center to care for affected wildlife, rather than attempting the care and cleaning of animals in a remote, inaccessible location. All the birds from this spill were transported from a remote island for care in a centralized facility run by Bird Rescue in Anchorage.

The long-lived King Eider carried the Federal Band #1347-54950.

The reported King Eider was originally oiled during the M/V Citrus Oil Spill that began in mid-February 1996 in Alaska’s Pribilof Islands around St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea, approximately 300 miles from the nearest mainland, and 750 miles from Anchorage. One hundred eighty-six birds, mainly eiders, were rescued near St. Paul and transported by U.S. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft to Bird Rescue’s Anchorage emergency response center. After medical stabilization, washing, and rehabilitation, the cleaned seabirds were again transported (a four hour flight) back to St. Paul Island, where their release was celebrated by the community and with the participation of schoolchildren.

Bird Rescue is proud of its work and the body of knowledge regarding the care of oiled wildlife that it has cultivated and shared since its inception in 1971. Data such as band returns on these species provide critical feedback to our rehabilitation processes, and clearly we are on the right track.

The deceased eider (Federal Band #1347-54950) was found near English Bay on St. Paul Island earlier this year. The metal band number was reported to the USGS Bird Banding Lab and they shared the information with Bird Rescue.

Male King Eiders are known for their very ornate and distinctive plumage. The male’s black and white feathers are accented by a reddish orange bill, bluish crown and greenish cheek. They are common in the Arctic waters of the Bering Sea.

This is the fourth King Eider from the 1996 spill that has been reported through the Bird Banding Lab.

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More Than 1000 Migratory Birds Found Dead at Rajasthan’s Sambhar Salt Lake


By TWC India Edit Team

2 days ago

TWC India

Representational image of migratory birds River Ganga


In a shocking episode, more than 1,000 migratory birds were found dead under mysterious circumstances at Rajasthan’s Sambhar Salt Lake on Monday, November 11.

Located near Phulera in Jaipur, Sambhar Lake witnesses a vast number of winged visitors during the winter season. Tourists and ornithologists from across the world regularly visit the region as it plays host to various migratory species of birds including the Northern Shoveler, Green Bee-Eater, Cinnamon Teal coming from Siberia, north Asia and other places. As the winter season progresses, the forest department is running against time to identify and address the cause of such mass deaths.

While the carcasses were immediately buried, officials have sent samples of the birds’ visceral remains to the forensic science laboratory in Bhopal. Experts say no signs of bird flu were observed till now, and the likely contamination of water could be the trigger. Further examination of birds’ internal organs could help pinpoint the cause of death.

Sambhar Salt Lake, Rajasthan

(Credits: Bhagirath/BCCL Jaipur)

While officials claim that the death toll is 1,500, the locals claim that the number of dead birds could be around 5,000. The dead bodies were found around a section of the Sambhar Salt Lake named Ratan Talab. Different species of waders and ducks, including the likes of pallas’ gull, ruddy shelduck, ruddy turnstone, gull-billed tern, redshanks, black-winged stilts, common coots, plovers, avocets, shovelers and sandpipers, were among the waterbirds whose dead bodies were found at the lake.

The officials buried the bird carcasses in a ditch. While a total of 669 dead birds were buried, many others were left unattended as it was difficult for the forest department personnel to go into the slippery muddy areas to retrieve their carcasses.

The incident of mysterious bird deaths is a second in Rajasthan within a week. Thirty-seven Demoiselle cranes were found dead in Vijay Sagar Lake in the Alwar district of Rajasthan on last Thursday. However, no link has been found in the two mass-death incidents, as the cranes supposedly died after eating poisoned grain. Officials have sent their viscera too for investigation.

The Sambhar Salt Lake is India’s largest inland saltwater lake. Located in Jaipur district of Rajasthan, it spreads across 190 to 230 square kilometres.

The lake has always attracted a host of migratory birds that travel tens of thousands of kilometres, typically to escape harsh winter conditions. However, the developmental activities around Sambhar in recent years, including the extension of salt pan operations, new settlements and changes in the weather, have reportedly decreased the number of birds flocking to the lake.

(with inputs from IANS)

Helping NYS birds

To friends of wildlife – speak up to help the birds in NYS!


USDA/Wildlife Services is introducing plans to address perceived “problems” here in New York State.  These plans include lethal and non-lethal strategies.  Consider telling them that their lethal strategies, including poisons, are unacceptable.  It is easy and quick to leave a comment – there are only a few days left to comment – comments are due by November 8.

New York is considering “wildlife damage management” against native birds including owls, kestrels, egrets, herons, plovers, hawks, woodpeckers, osprey, and many many more.

Here is the link to leave a comment:    (copy/paste this link to go to the comment page)

In the comments section, you can simply say you oppose killing birds, or you can mention the decline in birds and their habitats and why such plans are inhumane and detrimental.

Please share this message and the link with family and friends – thank you!

Final Plan for Arctic Refuge Drilling Could Cause Extinctions, Admits Government

The decision to open the refuge’s entire coastal plain to development, combined with climate change, ‘may result in extinction’ for some birds.


By Andy McGlashenAssociate Editor, Audubon Magazine

September 17, 2019

Birds in This Story



Falco rusticolus



Numenius phaeopus


Spectacled Eider

Somateria fischeri

Permanently Protect the Arctic Refuge

A new bill in Congress would permanently protect the Refuge from drilling.

Take Action

The U.S. Department of the Interior last week took a major step toward the first-ever oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In a decision that outraged but did not surprise environmentalists, the agency announced its final plan to develop one of the world’s last great wildernesses, acknowledging that its chosen course might wipe out some bird species and harm other animals that make their home on the pristine reserve.

The Trump administration had multiple options when planning to open the 19.3 million-acre sanctuary to drillers. After Republicans in Congress and President Trump directed Interior in 2017 to create a leasing plan for the refuge’s 1.5 million-acre coastal plain, the department laid out three possible scenarios for energy development there. But on Thursday, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced that the department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had chosen the most extreme plan, one that makes the entire coastal plain eligible for leasing and comes with the fewest restrictions on industry’s footprint.

Such an aggressive approach, the BLM acknowledged in its final environmental impact statement, combined with the effects of climate change, could drive birds to extinction, as E&E News first reported. Species that nest in the refuge “already are experiencing decreasing populations, and many could suffer catastrophic consequences from the effects of global climate change in one or more of their seasonal continental or even global habitats,” the document says. “These effects combined with development-related impacts across the ranges of many bird species may result in extinction during the 85-year scope of this analysis.”

Some 200 bird species rely on the refuge, including hardy year-round residents like American Dipper, Gyrfalcon, and Rock and Willow Ptarmigan. The area fills with birdlife each summer, including migrants from every U.S. state and six continents, such as Red-throated Loon, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and Whimbrel.

According to the BLM report, development could require energy companies to pump out large volumes from the coastal plain’s limited water bodies, resulting in food and habitat loss for loons and other waterbirds. Additional species could lose nesting habitat to roads and other infrastructure, and a variety of birds will likely be injured or killed in collisions with drilling rigs, communications towers, and vehicles.

Birds are far from the only wildlife with habitat at stake on the coastal plain, a strip of tundra, rivers, and wetlands wedged between the Brooks Range foothills and the Beaufort Sea. Federally threatened polar bears, which nurture their cubs in dens along its rivers and shoreline, will likely be killed as interactions with humans become more common, the impact statement says. Caribou migrate roughly 1,500 miles each spring to give birth on the plain, where there’s plenty to eat, sea winds to keep mosquitoes at bay, and few predators to threaten their calves. With new development, the biggest threat to caribou is displacement through oil and gas activities.

While the impact statement mentions some potential threats to wildlife, many experts believe it is not explicit enough when addressing the potential risks and even likelihood of extinction for a variety of species. “Oil and gas infrastructure in the Arctic Refuge, when considered in conjunction with climate change, poses an existential risk to several Arctic bird species,” said Audubon Alaska in a press release. Moreover, choosing such an aggressive development plan despite the toll it will take on wildlife “just goes to show how far this administration is willing to go to extract oil and gas, even in what should be a protected area,” says Susan Culliney, the group’s policy director.

The Arctic Refuge provides potential breeding habitat for Spectacled Eiders and hundreds of other species of birds. Photo: Danita Delimont/Alamy

In several high-stakes fights over the past 50 years, advocates for preserving this rare expanse of untouched wild have prevailed over the oil companies, Alaskan politicians, and native corporations that have pursued drilling. Political headwinds—produced in part by the public outrage after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska—have blocked past attempts to open the refuge. A bill to do so made it through Congress in 1995, but President Bill Clinton vetoed it. Democrats and some Republicans have voted to stop other such efforts. A 2017 Yale University poll found that 70 percent of Americans oppose drilling in the refuge.

But that dynamic shifted in December of 2017, when Republicans in Congress, backed by the administration’s call for “energy dominance,” tucked into a tax bill a provision to establish a fossil-fuel leasing program on the refuge’s coastal plain. Sometimes referred to as the 1002 Area, the coastal plain is considered the ecological heart of the refuge, but federal scientists estimate that it also sits atop 7.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The bill gave Interior until 2021 to conduct the first of at least two lease sales, each offering 400,000 or more acres. Department officials have pledged to hold that initial sale this year.

One reason for the aggressive timeline is to give industry a foot in the refuge’s door during President Trump’s first term, since having leases in place would complicate a future administration’s efforts to block drilling there, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said last year.

As a result, the regulatory process—typically measured and deliberate—has been rushed, confusing, and even misleading, according to reports from federal agency employees. A comprehensive review for any leasing program over such a large area would typically take two or three years. But the administration compressed that timeline: The draft environmental impact statement was published last December, only eight months after the review began. Investigations have found that, in its hurry, Interior omitted relevant information, and even altered reports from career scientists to downplay potential environmental impacts. And the rush for leasing this year didn’t leave time for seismic testing to give energy companies an idea of where oil deposits most likely exist, which can only happen when the tundra is frozen.

On Thursday, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt called the final environmental impact statement “a big step to carry out the clear mandate we received from Congress to develop and implement a leasing program for the Coastal Plain, a program the people of Alaska have been seeking for over 40 years.”

Energy development in the Arctic Refuge will likely harm polar bears and other wildlife. Photo: Steven J. Kazlowski/Alamy

Many Alaskans support drilling in the refuge—perhaps not surprising in a place where, over the past four decades, oil revenue has averaged about 85 percent of the state budget—but questions linger around the purported economic benefits of doing so. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that lease sales would generate only half of the $1.8 trillion in revenues claimed by the Trump administration. More recently, a New York Times analysis found that sales may generate just $45 million across the entire coastal plain.

Although some Alaska Natives advocate tapping into the oil reserves, the Gwich’in people have been outspoken opponents. They live outside the refuge but hold sacred the Porcupine caribou herd that migrates there each spring, and subsist by hunting the animals. The plan announced last week “demonstrates that this administration and the Alaska delegation will disregard our way of life, our food, and our relationship with the land, the caribou, and future generations to pander to industry greed,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, in a statement.

Even before the administration’s plan was announced, there was pushback on Capitol Hill. Hours earlier, the House of Representatives passed a bill to prohibit energy development in the refuge. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday, but it stands little chance of passing the Republican-majority chamber where pro-drilling Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski holds the powerful chairmanship of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I’m hopeful we can now move to a lease sale in the very near future, just as Congress intended,” Murkowski said in a statement, “so that we can continue to strengthen our economy, our energy security, and our long-term prosperity.”

Environmental groups, meanwhile, are gearing up to fight the plan in the courts. While the plan is final, Interior still needs to issue a formal record of decision, expected in about a month. Once it does so, lawsuits will certainly follow, as they did when the Trump administration lifted protections from national monuments and gutted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other environmental laws and regulations.

The plan is “categorically illegal,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, in a press release. “We will not tolerate the administration’s brazen attempt to paper over the impacts of this disastrous proposal, and we will see them in court for this reckless effort to turn this iconic American landscape into an industrial oilfield.”


Audubon magazine is a nonprofit that depends on the generosity of our readers. You can support stories like this by making a donation today. 

US and Canadian Bird Population Dropped by Nearly 3 Billion in 48 Years

America’s birds have taken wing. Ornithologists calculate that in the past 48 years, total U.S. bird numbers, reckoned together with Canada’s, have fallen drastically. There are now 2.9 billion birds fewer haunting North America’s marshes, forests, prairies, deserts and snows than there were in 1970. That is, more than one in four has flown away, perhaps forever.

Birds are one of the better observed species. Enthusiastic amateurs and trained professionals have been carefully keeping note of bird numbers and behaviour for a century or more.

A flock of avian scientists reports in the journal Science that they looked at numbers for 529 species of bird in the continental U.S. and Canada to find that while around 100 native species had shown a small increase, a total of 419 native migratory species had experienced dramatic losses.

Swallows, swifts, nightjars and other insectivores are in decline, almost certainly because insect populations are also in trouble.

Grassland birds are down 53%: more than 720 million fewer. Radar records of spring migrations suggest that these have dropped by 14% just in the last decade. More than a billion birds have deserted the American forests.

The 529 species studied were spread across 67 bird families, and of these 37 were less abundant than they had been. Where there had been concerted efforts at bird conservation, numbers were on the increase, especially for waterfowl and some of the raptors, such as the bald eagle, but while the gains are measured in millions, the losses are counted in billions.

“Multiple, independent lines of evidence show a massive reduction in the abundance of birds,” said Ken Rosenburg of Cornell University’s ornithology laboratory, who led the study.

“We expected to see continuing declines of threatened species. But for the first time, the results showed pervasive losses among common birds across all habitats, including backyard birds.”

That America’s birds are in trouble is not news. Nor is the loss of the planet’s living things confined to the U.S.: researchers have warned that, worldwide, a million or more species of plant and animal face extinction.

Pest Control

Climate change creates unexpected hazards: as northern hemisphere springs get ever earlier, migrant birds may arrive too late to take full advantage of supplies of caterpillars, aphids or other foods. Birds have an important role in ecosystems: they control pests, they disperse seeds and they are themselves food for other predators.

The researchers argue that all is not lost: conservation action and legislation has been shown to work, but as ever more natural habitat is destroyed, as sea levels rise to damage coastal wetlands, as global temperature rises begin to change local climates, there needs to be much more urgency in response.

“These data are consistent with what we are seeing elsewhere with other taxa showing massive declines, including insects and amphibians,” said Peter Marra, one of the authors, once of the Smithsonian Museum and now at Georgetown University in the U.S.

“It’s imperative to address immediate and ongoing threats, both because the domino effect can lead to the decay of ecosystems that humans depend on for our own health and livelihoods – and because people all over the world cherish birds in their own right. Can you imagine a world without birdsong?”

Officials hunt for suspected pigeon killer after 40 found dead in Somerset

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

OFFICIALS in Somerset are hunting a suspected bird poisoner after more than 40 pigeons were killed – including some that fell out of the sky dead.

Investigators including police and the RSPCA are looking into a spate of dead pigeons in Wells and say it is possible they were poisoned.

The birds started appearing in the High Street and beyond at the end of July – on roads, pavements and in people’s gardens.

The birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner in the city.

As many as 40 dead birds have been reported.

One woman found three in her garden and there there was even a report of one falling out of the sky and landing on a woman carrying a coffee.

It was suggested the birds might have been suffering from “pigeon canker”, a disease prevalent during the breeding season.

But autopsy carried out voluntarily vets proved ‘inconclusive’.

Wells City Councillor Celia Wride said: “I must say poisoning was my immediate reaction at the time.

“If this is a case of somebody putting down some killer feed for them we need to find out and do something about it. This is not the way to go about things.”

The matter has been referred to the police who passed it on to Natural England, the Government quango that advises the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on conservation and wildlife.

Natural England passed the matter onto the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has responsibility through the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.

It is an offence to injure or kill a wild bird under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, except under licence, and offenders can face an unlimited fine and/or six months imprisonment.

Tests for bird flu and West Nile Virus carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) proved negative.

A spokesman for the HSE said: “While HSE are unable to confirm the range of tests carried out by APHA as part of this post-mortem, the report provided did not state a view that disease was responsible for the pigeons’ deaths.”

Further analysis of tissue samples is currently being carried out by Fera Science Limited to determine if pesticides were used. This can take up to eight weeks.

If the toxicological report does indicate pesticide use, this information will be considered along with the field investigation report to try to identify whether the exposure took place from an approved use or not.

If abuse is suspected, then the information will be referred back to the police who are responsible for catching the pigeon poisoner.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “We are not sure what has happened, but we believe they may have been poisoned.

“The pigeons were taken to a vet by a member of the public and post mortems carried out.”

As well as being a deliberate act of poisoning the spokesperson said any potential source could also include poisonous substances not being safely stowed away.

Anyone with information that might help with the investigations is asked to call the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018 in confidence.

Ducklings keep getting stuck in fish ladder at Sullivans Pond

‘Ducklings in the river can’t be Dartmouth’s cat-up-a-tree call for the fire department’

The ducklings were staying close to their mother and away from the fish gate on Friday morning. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency is calling it Duckgate.

Baby ducks have been getting stuck in a fish ladder at Dartmouth’s Sullivans Pond — and people are calling Station 13 on King Street to come to the rescue.

“Ducklings in the river can’t be Dartmouth’s cat-up-a-tree call for the fire department all the time,” said Coun. Sam Austin.

Firefighters from Station 13 attempt to help ducklings caught in the fish gate at Sullivans Pond last month.(Submitted by Stephanie Keddy)

The fish ladder provides a pathway for fish to travel easily to other bodies of water. It’s also a beautiful addition for those who frequent the park.

“Through practice you discover your design flaws and one of the pieces in the fish ladder that no one thought about fully is what would happen to ducklings when they get to the other side,” Austin said.

He said the lip of the fish ladder is too high for the ducks to hop over, plus there is a strong current. “It’s perfect for fish, but it’s too strong for ducklings,” said Austin.

The ducklings appear to be unable to get back out of the fish gate once they’ve gone into it. (Submitted by Stephanie Keddy)

But while passersby are calling with concerns about the ducks, it’s the people that the city and fire department are worried about.

“We’ve witnessed the ducks going down over the slide,” said Chuck Bezanson, a Halifax Fire assistant chief. “I think it’s almost like a fun park for them and they come running right back up.

“So, we respond because we’re more concerned residents will try to rescue the ducks and maybe … hurt themselves in the process.”

Bezanson said the fire department has been in touch with Hope for Wildlife to try to find a solution because it can’t be left up to the firefighters.

“Anytime that you take a firefighter and occupy him with a non-essential duty, you run the risk that the firefighter won’t be available to respond to someone when they do need them for a life-safety type of event,” he said.

Coun. Sam Austin says the city is looking at possible solutions to make the fish gate more duck friendly.(Robert Short/CBC)

A spokesperson for Halifax Water said potential solutions are being reviewed.

Austin said it’s still in the early stages, but he doesn’t think netting would work because debris from the river would get caught.

He said someone would have to regularly check to make sure it wasn’t clogged. But he said retrofitting may be an option.

“It’s not an easy fix because it’s already built,” Austin said.

The city and the fire department are urging citizens to stay out of the water.

“We all love the ducklings, but do not go in the river yourself,” Austin said. “The fire department is the appropriate one to call.”

Bezanson said the department isn’t worried about the ducklings — their mother, or Mother Nature, will figure it out.

But for now the firefighters are taking the calls like water off a duck’s back.

Bird Therapy: On The Healing Effects Of Watching Birds


An uplifting and hopeful memoir and social commentary about how becoming deeply connected to the natural world through bird watching helped teacher and author Joe Harkness to deal with serious mental health issues, and could help many others, too

Bird watching teaches mindfulness and helps people lose themselves in something bigger than themselves and their troubles. (Credit: Joe Harkness / Bird Therapy / via Twitter)

Bird watching teaches mindfulness and helps people lose themselves in something bigger than themselves and their troubles.
(Credit: Joe Harkness / Bird Therapy / via Twitter)


As we go through life, we all suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune at some time or another. Loss of a loved one. Divorce. Illness. Unemployment. A domineering boss. Co-workers who steal credit for your ideas or work. Money problems. Bullying neighbors. Fear of what the future may bring. Social isolation. The list goes on and on. Although common, events such as these can trigger mental health challenges for anyone.

In fact, mental health issues affect one out of four people every year, as we’ve learned during the month of May, which has been observed as Mental Health Month in the United States since 1949. Yet, despite how common — how shared — mental health problems are, the subject still remains taboo. It’s rarely spoken of.

The most common mental health problems are depression and anxiety, which often show up together. As we learn in the book, Bird Therapy(Unbound, 2019: Amazon US / Amazon UK), these two unwelcome guests, along with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, eventually ended up causing Special Educational Needs Coordinator, Joe Harkness, to suffer an emotional breakdown that nearly drove him to suicide in 2013.

Cover for Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness and published by Outbound Books (2019).

Cover for Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness and published by Outbound Books (2019).


The opening paragraph of this book is difficult to read, especially for anyone who has been in a similar situation. But the honesty and vulnerability of the writing resonates deeply and keeps you reading, almost like following a delicate golden thread through a dark labyrinth and out into brilliant light again.

This somber beginning provides the context upon which Mr. Harkness builds his argument that being part of nature in some meaningful way is an essential element in an emotionally healthy life. In Mr. Harkness’s case, birds are his ticket to the outdoors, and birding is the elixir that saves him from his secret anguish. Mr. Harkness shares the (sometimes harsh) reality of his mental health struggles, but we learn how bird watching positively impacts his life, how it provides a special place to where he can escape the maelstrom of modern life, and how it increases his social connectedness by providing the opportunity to meet others with a similar passion for birds. We see how birding heals him.

Although I’m a lifelong birder, I was particularly interested to learn how birding develops mindfulness. Birding is a meditative practice that immediately appeals to all your senses — listening to bird sounds and songs, looking at their plumage colors and patterns, observing their complex and often subtle behaviors, identifying their habits and habitats — but weirdly, I’d not made this connection between birding and mindfulness before.

Nonetheless, even if you aren’t a bird watcher (Mr. Harkness didn’t start out a birder, either), you will be captivated by the story, and will find yourself becoming more aware of the birds around you — their sounds and behaviors and relationships — and noticing the positive impact that regular bird watching has on your mental health.

Writing this memoir was almost certainly therapeutic. The author is a careful observer and his thoughtful descriptions of his own mental state likely served as a valuable roadmap of his progress towards healing. The author’s lucid prose tracks his recovery, along with his setbacks, and provides encouragement to the reader to discover similar effects for themselves. To ensure that the main points are clear, there is a list of useful tips at the end of each chapter. By following the author’s journey back into the light, you can become conscious of common themes in your own inner conflicts and uncover unexpected connections with countless others who share these same struggles.

The author reaches out to others, too. Throughout the book, Mr. Harkness includes data and responses from an online survey that he conducted on his blog, and interweaves findings from published scientific studies revealing that birding (or even just getting out into nature) is correlated with improved mental health. This observation is not new: it was introduced and popularized by biologist, theorist, and author, Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book, Biophilia, where he defined the Biophilia Hypothesis as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. More recently, Richard Luov breathed new life into this idea by referring to it as “nature deficit disorder”.

But this book is more than a personal journal and more than just homework. In addition to advice and information for how to deal with mental health issues, it is candid and accessible and, at times, amusing. Fans of Richard Mabey’s popular book, Nature Cure, and Kate Bradbury’s lovely and often introspective The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, will find much to ponder in this memoir. The book also includes exquisitely beautiful pen-and-ink illustrations by artist, Jo Brown.

Although Mr. Harkness (and his birds) are British, mental health issues — like birds — respect no boundaries. Whether you enjoying bird watching or wildlife photography or just being in nature, this book provides a useful examination for how these quiet interests can bolster and support your mental and emotional wellbeing. Further, this uplifting and insightful book will provide inspiration and new ideas to mental health professionals and much-needed comfort and hope to everyone struggling with mental health issues.

Joe Harkness has written his Bird Therapy blog for the last three years. His writing has appeared in Birdwatch magazine and in the literary journal, The Curlew, amongst others. Mr. Harkness recorded three ‘Tweets of the Day’ for BBC Radio 4. He works as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator and has worked with vulnerable groups for nine years. He lives in Norfolk.

Bird Therapy: On The Healing Effects Of Watching Birds | @GrrlScientist

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Although I look like a parrot, I am an evolutionary ecologist and ornithologist as well as a science writer and journalist. As a writer, my passion is to use words and i…

Silencing the Songbirds: Southeast Asia’s illegal and unsustainable trade is pushing a multitude of songbird species towards extinction.

By Chris R. Shepherd –

Having birds around is something most Canadians take for granted. Spring, especially, is full of bird songs as the migrants return and mating season’s singing rituals commence. However, in some parts of the world, these songs are being silenced by the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade.

Black-winged starlings are in high demand in Indonesia, and as a result, very few are left. Enforcement efforts in the bird markets are needed to end the trade in these Critically Endangered birds. Photo: Chris R. Shepherd / Monitor

Globally, the illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth between US$7 billion and US$23 billion annually. While its clandestine nature makes accurate valuation impossible, it is considered the fourth most lucrative global crime after drugs, humans, and arms. It is recognized as a major threat to biodiversity, often acting in concert with habitat loss and hunting, compounded by unchecked demand, weak legislation, lax enforcement, public indifference, and widespread corruption—and it is pushing a multitude of birds towards imminent extinction.

At current rates of over-harvesting and habitat conversion, it is estimated that one-third of Southeast Asia’s bird species will be extinct by 2100, with at least 50% representing global extinctions. Of the approximately 850 species of bird native to Southeast Asia, more than 50 are assessed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Bird markets are found in most towns and cities throughout Indonesia, with thousands of birds being openly traded daily. Photo: Jordi Janssen / Monitor

Birds are traded for meat, for their parts used in traditional medicines, and as cagebirds. Among the birds in trade are the songbirds. Desired for their remarkable singing abilities, colourful plumage, and increasing rarity, Southeast Asian songbirds are trapped in the millions from the wild and traded on both a national and international scale.
Despite many species being afforded legal protection by national laws and regulatory policies in some countries, enforcement efforts are often lacking, allowing the songbird trade to continue unhindered. Enforcement takes a backseat, often because the authorities lack the necessary knowledge and awareness. Although sellers are often found to be aware of the illegality of their actions, they are not deterred by any threat of prosecution.

The fascination with songbirds is deeply ingrained in various Asian cultures and involves hundreds of species. Throughout the region, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, songbird competitions, where birds are judged on their singing abilities, are highly popular. Songbirds, especially rare species or those extraordinarily attractive, are also frequently kept as status symbols.

Indonesia is at the centre of this conservation crisis, having more species of songbirds threatened by illegal and unsustainable trade than any other country. Already, many endemic species have been pushed to the edge, with only a mere handful of individuals left in existence, such as the Black-winged myna Acridotheresmelanopterus, the Javan green magpie Cissathalassina, the Rufous-fronted laughing thrush Garrulaxrufifrons, and the Niashill myna Gracularobusta. Some species, such as the Javan pied starling Sturnus jalla, are believed extinct in the wild and remain only in the hands of collectors and traders.

Javan Green Magpies, like this one photographed in a conservation breeding program in Indonesia, are all but extinct in the wild thanks to the illegal bird trade. Photo: Chris R. Shepherd / Monitor

In 2015, the Southeast Asian Songbird Crisis Summit was heldin Singapore, gathering experts to address the crisis with utmost urgency. The summit saw the formation of the Southeast Asian Songbird Working Group, which would devise a Southeast Asian songbird action plan. In 2016, the Conservation Strategy for Southeast Asian Songbirds in Tradewas launched, which included a list of high priority species and necessary actions to stave off their extinction—some of these numbered fewer than 100 individuals. In 2017, the IUCN SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG) was formed to further elevate efforts. Made up of experts from conservation organizations, academia, zoological institutions, and enforcement agencies,it is tasked with conducting research on the taxonomy and wild populations, monitoring trade, lobbying for enhanced protection and effective enforcement, establishing and expanding ex situ assurance and breeding colonies, and developing education and community outreach. In early 2019, the ASTSG met for the first time since its formation to identify immediate priorities for the more than 40 species listed as priority species that will likely vanish if actions are not taken.

Birds, like these White-rumped Munias, are crammed into cages for sale in the bird markets. Mortality rates are extremely high in conditions like these, further fueling the demand for more wild-caught birds. Credit: Jordi Janssen, Monitor

The Monitor Conservation Research Society (Monitor), established in 2017, has joined this effort to protect songbirds from extinction. Through its Asian songbird programme, Monitor aims to put the Southeast Asian Songbird Conservation Action Plan into motion by concentrating on trade, legislation and enforcement. By continuing extensive research in key countries within Southeast Asia, Monitor seeks to gather much needed trade data—the lack of evidence and information is the greatest obstacle to legally protecting these species. Finally, to ultimately eliminate or significantly reduce the illegal and unsustainable trade in songbirds, government buy-in in the countries in question is essential. Monitor and partners will use evidence obtained through research on the trade to assist and lobby governments in key countries to increase their enforcement efforts, improve existing laws and policies and provide effective protective measures to commercially traded species. Through these efforts, it is hoped the songs of all Southeast Asia’s songbird species will be heard in the wilds forever.

Dr. Chris R. Shepherd is a vice-chair of the IUCN SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group and is the executive director of the Monitor Conservation Research Society (Monitor). Having worked on wildlife trade issues for more than 25 years, Dr. Shepherd focuses largely on lesser known species and species groups threatened by trade, such as the songbirds.