Fettering their Nests

The city thrums,
beneath the sparrow’s feet
pecking crumbs
of unforgiving stone.
Here, pigeons labour
over concrete
their wings an ashen blur
against the smog-stained sky.
But the thrush,
the wren,
the lark
with their songs
of leaves
and light,
find no solace
down canyons
of steel.
Their melodies,
fragile things,
into the traffic’s roar.
The chorus fades,
pruned to manicured parks –
patches of green
frayed across
our canvas
of grey.

Blackbird nests under a pedestrian bridge in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Finland (Image Credit: Andrea Santangeli).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that four in five bird species cannot tolerate intense human pressures.

In our increasingly urbanised world, the delicate balance of nature is constantly being tested. While some bird species seem to flourish amidst the hustle and bustle of human activity, others are on the brink of extinction, struggling to adapt to the rapid changes in their natural habitats. With over 14% of the world’s 11,000 bird species threatened with extinction, understanding the extent to which birds can tolerate human presence is critical. However, a comprehensive analysis covering a wide range of species and geographic areas has been missing, leaving a gap in our knowledge and conservation strategies.

From 2013 to 2021, researchers studied over 6,000 bird species globally, leveraging eBird, a birdwatcher-contributed database, to assess birds’ resilience to human impacts. They employed the Human Footprint Index (HFI) to quantify human environmental impact and introduced the Human Tolerance Index (HTI) to measure birds’ survival thresholds under such conditions. The study found that only 22% of bird species thrive in heavily modified human environments, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts focused on those species most at risk from habitat change.

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