RIO GRANGE VALLEY, Texas – As the golden anniversary of Earth Day approaches, one of the most remarkable migrations in the world is unfolding right here in the Rio Grande Valley.
As thousands of colorful songbirds like this Western tanager traverse the Gulf of Mexico alighting amidst vestiges of native habitat, resting and refueling before winging it north to breeding grounds.
The 50th anniversary of Earth Day will be celebrated Wednesday, April 22 as much of the world shelters in place to mitigate ravages of a global pandemic.
However, as humanity huddles held hostage by a deadly virus, migratory rhythms move unceasingly with a river of birds flowing north.
Birds have always been our biological barometers from the “canary in the coal mine” warning of foul air to alarm bells raised by near demise of Brown pelicans and Peregrine falcons who were decimated by the deadly pesticide DDT.
That first Earth Day led directly to creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and eventual banning of DDT.
Unfortunately, despite conservation efforts, North American bird populations have plummeted by more than a third since 1970, while the world’s human population has more than doubled to nearly 8 billion.
Migratory birds are a shared resource among nations, and a western tanager alighting in a Valley retama may spend 80 days in Canada’s Boreal Forests, 30 days in the United States and 200 days in Mexico and Central America.
Habitat degradation throughout their range is a major factor in this precipitous avian decline and global warming threatens catastrophic loss.
Perhaps, our faltering feathered emissaries are once again signaling warning that their plight is our shared destiny.
Maybe, it takes a crisis like this pandemic slowing us down, conserving resources and focusing our attention to become better stewards of the earth.
With a global pandemic and global warming the call is issued for a global wake up and a rejuvenated Earth Day.