Birds dying by the thousands in the American Southwest give tragic confirmation to the latest UN alarm that biodiversity is collapsing.
For centuries, birds have migrated from Alaska and Canada to Central and South America at the end of summer in the northern hemisphere. Now, large numbers of flycatchers, swallows and warblers are falling out of the sky in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Nebraska, dying far short of their destinations, according to the Guardian.
That distressing news follows a United Nations report warning that the world is failing to halt the extinction of plant and animal species. Out of 20 goals set in 2010 to reverse humans' destruction of wildlife by 2020, only six have been met, and those partially, according to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The new findings follow an earlier UN report that 1 million plant and animal species are in danger of extinction.
The rapid decline in species since 1970 threaten human existence, the UN says. Urbanization, the growth of agriculture, the loss of forests, plastic pollution, carbon emissions, climate change and invasive alien species have disrupted natural habitats. Overfishing and industrial wastes spewing into waterways have distressed the earth's oceans.
Climate change, and the wildfires in the Western United States, appear the main cause of the birds' deaths. The fires forced the birds away from pathways where food is plentiful, leaving them too undernourished to complete their journey.
Bird species are also threatened by climate change in Canada and the loss of their South American habitats to deforestation. A similar process is reducing the number of monarch butterflies.
New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert's Pulitzer Prize winning "The Sixth Extinction" warned in 2015 about the threat to humanity from the loss of plants and animals. But even as awareness of climate change grows, the loss of diversity receives little attention.
The UN report contained some good news: deforestation has lessened, more ocean and natural areas have received protection, and progress was made to halt invasive species. But lately, fires have spread across Brazil's Amazon jungle and Pantanal wetlands, as the western United States burns.
As with the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, the world is running out of time to protect species that share the earth with us.