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The Biggest Threats To Birds And How You Can Help


Time now for some "Talkin' Birds."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ray Brown's "Talkin' Birds."

WERTHEIMER: Birds can have some perfectly cheerful and chipper songs, but a bird's life can be a rough one. Wind turbines, cell towers, skyscrapers and, of course, one particularly deadly furry predator we'll come to in a minute. To talk about the challenges facing feathered friends, our pal Ray Brown, host of the radio show and podcast "Talkin' Birds" joins us now from the studios of WGBH in Boston. Welcome.

RAY BROWN: Thank you, Linda. Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: So let's just run down this list. Wind farms and cell towers - how serious are they?

BROWN: The American Bird Conservancy is a group that has done a lot with the issue of wind turbines. They're estimating somewhere in the vicinity of 350,000 birds annually, North America, killed by crashing into wind turbines. But when you get to the other things - the radio and the TV towers and the cell towers and power lines, if you combine them all, they're talking about almost 7 million bird fatalities a year.

WERTHEIMER: But I understand that all of the dangers we've discussed so far, those big numbers of bird fatalities, it all pales next to this.


WERTHEIMER: I shouldn't laugh. That is one really big problem for birdies - cats.

BROWN: It is. Their numbers, in terms of big bird fatalities, they are said to be responsible for up to 3.7 billion bird deaths per year. That's just in the lower 48, by the way.

WERTHEIMER: And there's one more really big problem for birds. That, of course, I guess is more complex - habitat destruction.

BROWN: Habitat destruction is so extreme. If you - just an example here, you talk about grass prairie habitats, a lot of grassland birds that are declining tremendously. More than 95 percent of the grass prairie habitat in the U.S. has been lost in the last century.

WERTHEIMER: Now, we've talked about all of the dangers and challenges to birds. I wonder - what could we as bipeds do to have the biggest impact on their safety?

BROWN: You know, there's a lot of things that we can do. I think on the local level one of them, we have betting back to cats, so keep your cats indoors if you possibly can. Planting native shrubs and flowers in your yard, reducing pesticides in your lawn and garden. Another thing that's a favorite of mine is buying bird-friendly coffee, the shade-grown coffee that's planted under the natural forest canopy, so they're not clear-cutting the forest. There's a Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center seal that's good to look for that can assure you that it's really shade-grown coffee. And it really does make a big difference.

WERTHEIMER: Ray Brown is the host of the podcast and radio show "Talkin' Birds." He joined us from the studios of WGBH in Boston. Ray, thank you.

BROWN: Thank you so much, Linda.


BOBBY DAY: (Singing) Tweedle-lee-dee-dee-dee, tweedle-lee-dee-dee-dee, tweedele-lee-dee-dee-dee

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Ray Brown's "Talkin' Birds," I love that show.


DAY: (Singing) Tweedle-lee-dee-dee-dee, tweet, tweet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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