Go back to your lives citizens

Posted January 18th, 2011 by kcorliss. Comment (0).

I thought I’d give it a little time before addressing the craziness surrounding the news of worldwide bird die-offs.

It appeared to have started in Arkansas with the first report of blackbirds falling from the sky. Once that story became known, newsrooms around the world jumped on the band wagon and filled my inbox with story after story of massive bird deaths. One would have thought the apocalypse was near. Every theory imaginable was introduced to explain the “unprecedented” events: government conspiracy (naturally), overuse of pesticides (naturally again), even the moving of the magnetic north pole (I kid you not). Sometimes I wonder if we really have left the Dark Ages and entered the age of science. It truly is amazing how low-level stories steamroll into a global buzz. A sign of the times I suppose.

Enough time has now past where we can look at the events with calmer eyes and normal heart rates. Just today I came upon this one  (dated Jan. 8) from the Wall Street Journal which quite fairly slices up the facts and lays it out logically. I love the headline: Bird die-offs? Not That Rare. Indeed.

The bottom line is this stuff happens quite frequently but most events fly under the public’s radar. Here’s a great even-toned quote from the story:

“Large mortality events in wildlife aren’t that uncommon,” says Paul Slota, spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., which has been tracking mass animal deaths since the 1970s. “In the last 10 years we have logged 188 cases just involving birds with mortality exceeding 1,000 animals per event.”

Let me do the math for you. That works out to 18.8 cases per year, or one in about every 20 days. And that’s just the ones exceeding 1,000 deaths. Quick, prior to December, when was the last time you heard about 1,000 animals or birds dying? I thought so.

It’s a rough-and-tumble world out there for us and for the critters. Upshot: stuff happens. I just wonder where the calm voices were when the news anchors and journalists were screaming at us about massive die-offs.

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