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The Messenger, a Documentary on the Decline of


Songbirds
By Nancy Howell
Just by sheer luck I found out about a film called,
The Messenger.
Hearing that title,
one would probably gloss over it and think it was just another film at the local movie
theater. Fortunately the winter 2016 issue of
Living Bird,
from
Cornell Laboratory of
Ornithology
, featured an article about the film.
If you have the opportunity to see The Messenger, be prepared to be mesmerized by
opening scenes of
songbirds
in flight in slow motion. As the film progresses other
emotions are felt as one learns about the decline of songbirds around the world. This
movie does take you around the globe with some disturbing information. Songbirds
throughout the world have been declining and the message; the health of
environments are suffering.
What are some of the major issues faced by migratory songbirds? The film begins with
information about songbirds migrating at night, a fact that most of the public may not
realize. Due to the amount of light emanating from cities migratory birds collide with
buildings and windows. Domestic cats, not a natural predator in North America, take
a huge toll on many species, migratory or not. Habitat fragmentation, particularly in
the
boreal forest
region where energy production and logging are cutting into formerly
pristine nesting areas. One of the latest concerns is
neonicotinoid pesticides
or
neonics, a systemic insecticide in which the active ingredient is taken up within the
Copyright Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society
Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works.
Western Cuyahoga Audubon, 4310 Bush Ave, Cleveland, OH 44109
Email:
info@wcaudubon.orgWeb:
http://www.wcaudubon.org

plants stalk, leaves and even the pollen. Some are even calling this pesticide the new
DDT
since it tends to persist and build up over time. Aquatic organisms, earthworms,
bees and birds appear to be the most affected, but studies are just beginning.
There is considerable gloom and doom in the film, but also good science into the
research of songbird declines. Perhaps viewing this film is what is needed to get each
one of us to think about what we can do. Keeping cats indoors or, if outdoors, having
them leashed. Work with veterinarians and cat rescue groups to spread the message.
Plant native plants that provide food, shelter and habitat for migrants to use your yard
or neighborhood for safety and refueling. Begin a campaign for your city to dim or
turn off the lights on buildings, particularly during spring and fall migration. Do not
use pesticides or herbicides which are not selective in the harm they cause. Just as
important is educating yourself and others on migratory species and what the species
face.
he parting shot in the movie was probably the most moving. Hundreds of dead birds
T
that had been killed while on migration, were laid out individually on the floor of a
building. What was not clear was if this was the mortality from an entire migratory
season? A week? Was there someone at this demonstration explaining what was being
shown? This information would have been good to know. The director showed the
deceased birds as they were being laid out then showed families and children watching,
birds being spread out, pan back to the children and back to the birds.

If you have the opportunity to view The Messenger, once, but I recommend more
than one time, I think it will strike a chord. It has made a difference for me to take
action, I hope it can make a difference for you.
Nancy Howell
has been involved with Western Cuyahoga Audubon almost since the chapter was
formed. Nancy presently serves on the Western Cuyahoga Audubon Board as treasurer, in
membership and as program coordinator and is the compiler for the Lakewood Christmas Bird Count
which is sponsored by Western Cuyahoga Audubon. In the past Nancy has served in the role of
vice-president, president, education coordinator and field trip coordinator. Nancy is also one of the
many leaders for the Spring Bird Walks, sponsored, in part, by Western Cuyahoga Audubon.

Copyright Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society


Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works.
Western Cuyahoga Audubon, 4310 Bush Ave, Cleveland, OH 44109
Email:
info@wcaudubon.orgWeb:
http://www.wcaudubon.org