Anser Caerulescens: A poem for North America’s endangered birds

thinning the flock
thinning the flock

Dana Fries

Related Topics:
Conservation, Storyfest 2024

My name is Dana Fries, and I am a senior in the environmental studies program at SUNY-ESF. I am an avid bird watcher because I grew up in front of a cemetery in Ohio that was a famous bird-watching spot. The poem below is a warning message, not about a particular currently endangered species, but a lesson that many people in North America have yet to learn about conservation.

In my opinion, “too big to fail” is an idea held in the public imagination about species populations. The shock of the extinction magnitude of the passenger pigeon still haunts this continent, and I see some modern parallels in the story of the snow goose (Latin name: Anser caerulescens), a wetlands bird native to North America.

According to the American Bird Conservancy, climate change will negatively affect wetland habitats, which the snow goose relies upon. The snow goose breeding range might be cut by up to 73 percent if average global temperature rise by 2-degrees Fahrenheit. The image above abstractly depicts the cost of losing this species due to climate change. No population is too big to fail, and although the endangered species list is a powerful tool for conservation, listing in itself is not enough.

I had to pull over

to catch the snowstorm

the beauty of the common snow goose

there is no other way to say it

North America better not ruin this

the track record hasn’t been so great (Passenger Pigeon)

so yes, I will poetically wax on about a

bird so common

no one is safe.

I had to pull over

for a moment the sky turned into an ocean with rippling waves

white caps on a windy day.

From Siberia to Mexico

the harbingers of the seasons dance

the snow goose is not on your list

but they fill my sky

A blue morph was shot in Idaho at 30 years old

that bird was older than me.

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