Op-ed: Butterflies and Birds Know No Border

OPINION: Butterflies and Birds Know No Border

By Jim Rettig 

Greater Roadrunner by Mick Thompson

Greater Roadrunner by Mick Thompson

During the last half of February my wife and I were in southeast Arizona looking at birds. We got very close to the U.S.-Mexico border a few times, saw many Border Patrol vehicles and personnel, and went through at least two Border Patrol checkpoints. We visited a town we had never been to before, Sasabe, Arizona, a very small out-of-the-way place that sits right on that border and is a port of entry from Mexico into the United States. The Wall was right before us. We looked left and right and saw The Wall following up and down hillsides, going beyond the horizon in either direction, a wall shorter than the 18-foot one wanted by Donald Trump, but it was topped by miles of razor wire. Not pretty at all, very ugly in fact, and a disgrace to the human community. Later in the trip we visited the Tucson Audubon Society office where we joined that chapter and received a copy of their quarterly magazine, the Vermilion Flycatcher (Jan-Mar 2019 issue). From an article in there, titled “Birds and the Border” by Nicole Gillett, we learned a few facts about birds on the border.

Did you know that the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl will not fly more than 5 feet off the ground, and like many other species, will avoid open areas with no protective plant cover?  

“A hard barrier like a border wall will further segment an already threatened population.”

Did you know that the Greater Roadrunner’s habitat extends far into Mexico, but not much farther north than the U.S. Sonoran desert, and while many are residents of a particular area, some will wander great distances? “The roadrunner prefers to run along the ground rather than fly and will likely be impeded by a border wall.”

Ruddy Ground Doves by Edgard Goncalves

Ruddy Ground Doves by Edgard Goncalves

Did you know that the Ruddy Ground Dove is a species that travels to winter in the warmer Sonoran desert weather? “With a hardened barrier, this is another bird we could see fewer of in Arizona.”

Did you know that the population of the elusive Montezuma Quail is decreasing in the southwestern U.S. and that in Mexico it is understudied? “Another low flying bird, the quail is very skittish and will likely face many of the same problems as the Pygmy Owl.”

And did you know that the Elf Owl migrates into northern Mexico and Arizona for its breeding season? “A low-flying bird, the Elf Owl could face further habitat shrinkage with a barrier between Mexico and the United States.”

The take away here? For the sake of these and other birds, please call, write, and elect people who continue to or will work to stop the building of this ugliest construction project ever imagined! Butterflies, birds and other animals know no border. We could learn from them.