Simply Science: Conserving for our migrating birds

WABASHA, Minn. - Some of the most beautiful and colorful birds we see in our own backyards are disappearing, but looking south of the border could reverse the trend.

Just one call out to local birders on Facebook has proven two things. We have some beautiful winged creatures among us and some amazing photographers capture their images.

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone more passionate about our wildlife than Wisconsin DNR biologist Craig Thompson.

"I'm just totally into it," he says.

Thirteen National Park System units in the Upper Midwest, have established a "sister park" partnership with national parks and protected areas of Costa Rica for habitat protection and restoration. This is where many of our birds spend their winters.

Thompson adds, "We're providing long term conservation on behalf of our migratory birds."

One species stands out in particular.

"Minnesota supports 40% of all the golden wings. Wisconsin, your neighbor to the east support 25%, so between the two we support 65% of all the golden wings that exist on planet earth," he explains.

The golden winged warbler is especially sensitive to changes in its forest habitat that is being converted for agricultural use.

"The bird is declining in numbers and in fact, the golden winged warbler is the second highest conservation priority in North America just because of its precipitous decline," says Thompson, who is for once, no longer smiling.

Because birds are sensitive to changes in the environment, they can act as a barometer for the health of the entire ecosystem. Healthy birds can mean a healthy earth.


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