"When Captain Cook came to the Queen Charlotte Sound in 1770, his botanist, Joseph Banks, described the dawn chorus he heard in his journal.
'This morn I was awakd by the singing of the birds ashore from whence we are distant not a quarter of a mile, the numbers of them were certainly very great who seemd to strain their throats with emulation perhaps; their voices were certainly the most melodious wild musick I have ever heard, almost imitating small bells....'.
The dawn chorus doesn't exist now for two reasons: forest was felled and converted to farmland, and bird/egg eating mammals were introduced.
New Zealand is trying to stop the decline in our bird numbers and threatened species, and we are even succeeding in small areas. We have been leading the world at completely eradicating pests from some islands, and fencing off some forest areas within our cities, and eradicating all mammals (rats/stoats/cats) within them.
Fortunately New Zealand is quite progressive on environmental issues (although we need to do way better), and about 5% to 10% of our parliament is the Green Party (who regularly have real power by forming coalition governments or strategic voting on bills). I think much of their policy is whacko, but as a minority they work well to effect change and represent the large number of New Zealanders that care deeply about our environment.
I like this summary http://i.stuff.co.nz/environment/8206417/A-deafening-dawn-ch... (although maybe stop reading when she starts rabbiting on about her rooster!).
“Fools & Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest is a 30-minute documentary about Hinewai Nature Reserve, on New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula, and its kaitiaki/manager of 30 years, botanist Hugh Wilson. When, in 1987, Hugh let the local community know of his plans to allow the introduced ‘weed’ gorse to grow as a nurse canopy to regenerate farmland into native forest, people were not only skeptical but outright angry – the plan was the sort to be expected only of “fools and dreamers”.
Now considered a hero locally and across the country, Hugh oversees 1500 hectares resplendent in native forest, where birds and other wildlife are abundant and 47 known waterfalls are in permanent flow. He has proven without doubt that nature knows best – and that he is no fool.”
I can't imagine what it would have been like to hear a chorus of those birds back when they were far more numerous.
Was curious about this. It represents about 6-12% of the vote. Australian green party regularly gets 10-15% of the vote but only ends up with one seat in parliament. Whereas the entirely pointless and self servingly corrupt national party gets 6% of the vote and 16 seats.
New Zealand has a different voting system.  tldr: if you want democratic outcomes, you need democratic processes.
The beautiful thing about multi party systems is you can elect both the party that cares about farmers, and the party that cares about the environment and have them work out some compromises.
Outside of Central Asia sparrows are introduced species, adapted to live on remains of our towns. Urban environments is the natural habitat of sparrows, like rats with wings. They don't belong to the wilderness. If sparrows are also disappearing then the loss of natural habitat is not the only answer.
Edit: from this graph  it seems that the loss is concentrated on introduced species (such as sparrows), shorebirds and insectivores.
Today, I drove home from Las Vegas to Portola Valley. I went 95->6->120 over Tioga pass, then home.
I've driven this route over several decades. My recollection (corroborated by a few Kodachrome slides) is that my windshield would be smeared with bug impacts by the time I got to Lee Vining, necessitating a stop at the humongously overpriced gas station so I could use their window cleaners. Since about 15 years ago, not so much.
I had a total of three bugs at Lee Vining today. I bypassed the gas station and window cleaning, went over Tioga.
If we're really missing the quantities of bugs my anecdote may illustrate, it's no wonder the birds are missing, too.
Mum used to yell at me all the time to hurry though the screen door so the flies wouldn't get in. Now we could leave the screen open all day and we'd be lucky to see a fly come in.
Even worse, there is a whole universe of microbes which we know even less about than insects...
I’m sure that is the largest impact on birds, no food.
It used to be that I'd have to clean my windshield at gas stops and the car would need its bumper and hood washed of insect genocide on arrival.
These days neither are necessary, it's very apparent.
That's besides the point though, at least along the route I drive most often, which is i80 between SF and Chicago, there's been a very visible decline of insects over the past ~1.5 decades according to the windshield gauge.
who else is going to kill those billions of old and ill weak and dying birds? In wilderness this is done by a plethora of predators. In developed areas pretty much only cats are left to perform that duty. Without cats it would probably be the rats walking around eating the finally fallen dead birds lying around. Your choice.
And don't forget another aspect - rats eat bird eggs imparting massive damage at that stage, and the only predator available that can effectively control rats in the areas inside and surrounding human developments is cats.
I mean, it's not terrible but it used to be solidly educational whereas Nature or Science is relatively hard work to read unless you really love getting into the weeds. Scientific American used to sit in the middle ground between Popular Mechanics or National Geographic and actual journals, but you'll probably find it disappointingly shallow.
I can and do read Nature and Science, but outside of my PhD field I find it pretty slow going and often feel like I'm missing out on what could be interesting findings due to not having sufficient background to fully understand the problem space.
Even though most of their articles are IT-oriented, they cover quite well major scientific publications in various domains.