There are a lot of birds around. Excerpt:
Through a combination of citizen science and big data analytics, researchers have estimated the entire global population of birds. There are roughly 50 billion individual birds chirping and flapping across the world, about six birds for every human.
“Humans have spent a great deal of effort counting the members of our own species – all 7.8 billion of us,” says Associate Professor Will Cornwell, an ecologist at the University of New South Wales and co-senior author of the study.
“This is the first comprehensive effort to count a suite of other species.”
There are over 9,700 different bird species that we know of, and the eBird catalog covers 92% of these species. The remaining 8% of species are very rare species that are rarely sighted, meaning their numbers are very low so their exclusion from the analysis shouldn’t have much impact on the overall estimate.
While some species are threatened with extinction others are incredibly abundant. In fact, four bird species are in what researchers call ‘the billionaire club’, due to having an estimated population of over a billion. These include the house sparrow (1.6 billion), followed by the European starling (1.3 billion), ring-billed gull (1.2 billion), and barn swallow (1.1 billion).
Having been brought up by parents who were involved in the local Audubon Society, I’ve always been a bit of a bird nut. I like having them around, and now here, in the Great Land, we have a wide range of avian residents ranging from chickadees to eagles. Their presence adds a lot to the landscape.
And here’s the thing: I occasionally have occasion to raise the eyebrows of non-biologist types when they refer to something being “as dead as a dinosaur” by telling them that dinosaurs aren’t extinct; there are more dinosaurs alive today than mammals. We call them birds, and while it’s the general practice among paleontologists and biologists to refer to “non-avian dinosaurs” as a distinction, the clade Aves (modern birds) are part of the larger group Theropoda, which includes most of the bipedal predatory dinos like allosaurus, the various raptors, and the infamous tyrannosaurs.
While that’s cool to reflect on, mostly, I just like having birds around. At this time of year, every morning when I leave the house to walk to the office, I’m surrounded by a concert of morning bird song – another reminder of why we chose to move to this wondrous place.