Study finds decline in local birds

Published on Thu, Aug 2, 2007 by ara Nelson

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Study finds decline in local birds

By Tara Nelson

Populations of western grebe and common murres in both Semiahmoo and Drayton Harbor are decreasing faster than ever although it is not yet clear why, according to a Western Washington University study released last week.

John Bower, an associate professor at WWU, recently concluded a comprehensive census of Northwest Washington marine birds and the numbers aren’t pretty.

Results from his research show a decrease of more than 80 percent for western grebe and more than 90 percent for common murres – more than the previous census, taken in the late 1970s.

In addition, Bower’s research shows an overall 26 percent decline in the number of marine birds in Northern Puget Sound – including declines of 20 percent or more in 23 of the 35 species that were most common in the 1970s.

“My hope is that this comparison (between my study and the older census) will refine our knowledge of how local marine bird populations have changed over the last 25 years,” Bower said in a statement.

The factors contributing to those declines, however, are unclear and the study’s author could not be reached for further comment.
The study area includes the vitally important Drayton Harbor/Semiahmoo area, a site the Seattle Audubon Society calls “one of the premier coastal birding sites in Washington.”

A 2001 study by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife found that 46 million birders generated $32 billion in retail sales in the United States during birding expeditions that year.
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