A lesson from Nature points up the dire plight of the West.
American Dissident Voices broadcast
August 10, 2005
by Kevin Alfred Strom
ONE OF MY small pleasures in life is bird watching, which
gives me some peace in this world of constant
Over the years, I have discovered that there is a great
deal to be learned from our avian neighbors, lessons that
illustrate the laws of Nature that apply to us as much as to them.
Recently, a listener sent me this article from the Richmond,
Virginia Times-Dispatch entitled "Songbirds in the Midwest
are singing cowbird blues -- Raising orphaned chicks wipes out
'The Midwest has become a disaster area for migrant
songbirds and a paradise for a feathered freeloader who
tricks other birds into raising its young.
'Songbirds that fly thousands of miles from South America
to nest in the forests of the Midwest are being pushed toward
population collapse by cowbirds that lay eggs in other birds'
nests and force the hosts to feed and nurture cowbird chicks.
'A study to be published today in the journal Science shows
that migrant songbird populations are in steep decline in the
Midwest, and naturalist, Scott K. Robinson, of the Illinois
Natural History Survey, says that parasitic cowbirds are the
principal cause. Robinson said a single cowbird female lays
eggs in a dozen songbird nests and then leaves them in the
songbirds' care. "The cowbirds hatch earlier, grow
faster and then crowd out the host young," said
Robinson. "The songbird young just starve to
'Robinson said the cowbirds are thriving in the Midwest
because the big woods have been felled for farm fields and
pastures, depriving the migrant songbirds of the protection
of the deep forests. The songbirds include tanagers,
warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, and grosbeaks.
'A survey by more than 125 researchers and assistants of
5,000 nesting sites in five states found that up to 50 per
cent of the songbirds were not successful in raising young.
This is not enough to maintain the songbird population at
those sites, said Robinson. The survey was done in Indiana,
Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri.
'"These birds don't have an evolutionary history of
dealing with cowbirds," said Robinson. "They
haven't learned to recognize that a cowbird egg is not their
egg and that cowbird young are not their young."
'Most migrant songbirds, he said, "imprint on the
young and take care of whatever is in the nest," even if
it is a cowbird chick. Some resident birds, however, won't
tolerate the freeloading cowbirds.'
'"The Baltimore Oriole will puncture a cowbird egg and
throw it out," he said. Robins also reject the cowbird
egg. Both robins and orioles are thriving.
'Robinson said that the study shows that the problem could
be corrected by establishing a network of forests no smaller
than 20,000 acres. This is the minimum size, he said, to give
the migrant songbirds a haven from the cowbirds.'
I'm amazed that the controlled media allowed that article to
leave their presses in that form, but there it is. There are so
many lessons to be learned there.
Here we have beautiful, brightly colored, noble-looking
creatures with sweet poetry and music their art; threatened by
ugly brown parasite birds, whose only distinction is that they
can sometimes fool the beautiful ones into thinking that there is
no difference between them.
Here we have parasite young crowding out the legitimate young
in the nest. Have you seen a big-city classroom recently? Here we
have parents spending their precious time and energy feeding and
caring for the parasite young. Its parallel is the vast wealth
and even lives which are squandered to "uplift" the
forever miserable here or overseas. Its parallel is the Christian
Children's Fund and interracial adoptions fostered by our
governments and our churches. We are digging our graves with a
stupid -- extremely stupid -- smile on our foolish White faces.
The songbirds are dying as we will die. Some populations have
fallen as much as 93% and experts are predicting multiple
extinctions across this continent. As the warbler's trill is
replaced by the raucous cowbird squawk, so Vivaldi is eclipsed by
What is the solution for the songbirds? What are the only
hopes for their survival? One was mentioned in the Times-Dispatch article I quoted. It is the establishment of a habitat for the
songbirds, to give the songbirds a "haven from the
cowbirds." The songbirds need -- as we also need -- and as
every species needs to survive, a defendable territory of its
own, where its parasites and other enemies are not present, where
it can raise its own young, and its own precious and uniquely
wonderful and beautiful genetic heritage will be passed on,
unmixed, to the next generation. Without our own
territory we perish. A nation that declares itself a melting-pot
of all races will soon cease to be anything but a graveyard for
Now songbirds could survive the clearing of the forests, if
that was all there was to it. They nest reasonably well in
meadows and near farmer's fields. Change of habitat by itself
isn't fatal. It is that due to the clearing of their traditional
forest habitat, they are now forced to share all their territory
with cowbirds. In other words, they are being forcibly integrated
with cowbirds. It is the integration with cowbirds that is fatal.
Give songbirds their own territory, by whatever means, and they
will thrive again.
A Discover magazine article last year mentioned another, more
controversial solution advocated by some conservationists. In
areas where the last remaining songbirds are now threatened, they
are capturing and killing the invading cowbirds with poison gas.
The results? I quote:
'Some [songbird] species are in trouble ...they're raising
too many baby cowbirds and not enough young of their own.
Among the songbirds that have been pushed closer to
extinction by cowbirds are the Least Bell's Vireo of
California, the Black-Capped Vireo of Texas, and the
Kirtland's Warbler of Michigan. The situation has forced
conservationists into the uncomfortable position of
advocating cowbird extermination programs.
'"While we don't like killing cowbirds," says
Jane Griffith, a biological consultant, "we do like to
hear the songs of endangered species." On a local level,
at least, such programs seem to help. An example is the one
that Griffith and her husband, John Griffith, have worked on
at Camp Pendleton, a Marine base in Oceanside, California,
that is one of the last refuges of the Least Bell's Vireo. In
the early 1980s, half the vireo nests there were parasitized.
By 1994, after some 4,800 cowbirds had been trapped and
gassed with carbon monoxide, parasitism had declined to 1
percent. More important, the number of male vireos had
increased more than fifteenfold, from 27 in 1981 to 420 in
1993. Similar success has been reported by cowbird control
program at Fort Hood, Texas, which has become a retreat for
the Black-Capped Vireo'.
Some bird species, especially orioles and robins, are thriving
despite efforts by the cowbirds to parasitize them. They are
thriving because they do not welcome the cowbirds to their nests.
They are thriving because they defend their territory from
invaders. They are thriving because they will puncture the
cowbird's egg and eject it from the nest. The Condor magazine,
for August 1995, mentioned another species, Couch's Kingbird,
that has successfully resisted parasitism. What is the successful
survival technique of Couch's Kingbird? -- Egg discrimination.
What natural survival technique has been made into a crime and
into a dirty word by our enemies? The ability to discriminate --
which simply means to choose -- sometimes makes the difference
between life and death.
There are other amazing parallels between the cowbirds'
parasitism and our dispossession. Since they don't have the
burden of raising her own young, cowbirds reproduce at a much
faster rate than other bird species. A single female cowbird can
lay as many as 50 eggs in a single breeding season. Since welfare
recipients are freed of much of the burden of raising their
broods, they also ...well, you get the picture. And you also know
who carries the burden.
And as we are threatened by multiform parasites, both those
already here and those flowing across our southern border, so are
the songbirds. Read this excerpt from the Discover magazine
'Meanwhile, a new threat to songbirds has surfaced -- an
invasion of another species of cowbird. Since 1985 the Shiny
Cowbird of South America has been sighted in Florida.
According to Alexander Cruz, a biologist at the University of
Colorado in Boulder, it hasn't yet been caught parasitizing
nests, but that's just a matter of time.'
Ladies and gentlemen, please consider this
lesson from Nature. For if we as a people continue to violate
Nature's laws, we shall surely perish.
More by Kevin Alfred Strom