Mockingbirds Aplenty, But Few Crows
"You know, there's a mockingbird who wants to claim the rights to your plot," he said with a smile.
"Yes, I know. He was sitting up there on the trellis when I was here on Saturday. He must have sat there for a good 20 minutes or so, singing his little heart out. He has a lot to say, apparently."
And so it is that I have a friendly mockingbird that makes regular visits to my plot. When I'm in the garden I thoroughly enjoy having a front-row seat from which to watch him sing his melodious aria. That is, except for the times when he stops to give a good long glance at my ripening strawberries.
Don't. Even. Think. About it.
I had only intended to write about my encounters with the persistent, strawberry-seeking mockingbird today, but this morning I read some astonishing news about other birds -- and in particular, about birds here in the Washington, D.C. area. On the front page of the Express (a free daily publication of The Washington Post), a lead story about West Nile virus was titled, "Where have all the birds gone?" And in the photo caption with the story: "Crows have been hit particularly hard by West Nile virus. In D.C., 90 percent have died."
Ninety percent of the crows in D.C. have died?! Wow. That statistic was shocking to me. It seems as if it was only a few years ago when we first heard the reports about West Nile virus affecting birds in our area. I can't believe so many crows have since died. Crows certainly aren't the most endearing of birds, but this makes me wonder: How is the loss of so many crows affecting other species? Everything is connected.
The news became even more disturbing when I read that it's not just crows that are dying in mass numbers. Many popular types of backyard birds are affected as well. According to the full story in The Washington Post,
"In the Northeast, for example, chickadees have dropped by 53 percent and the Eastern bluebird is down 44 percent. In Maryland, American robins took an especially large hit, with the virus apparently responsible for a 32 percent population reduction."Unbelievable. And sad, really. The article goes on to note that the best thing people can do to curb the spread of West Nile virus is to remove any sources of standing water in their yards (where mosquitoes, the carriers of the virus, breed).
The Post referred to a study published today in the journal Nature.