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Talkin' Birds: The Damage Of Plastics


BOBBY DAY: (Singing) Tweedilly, tweedilly, deet.


Time now for "Talkin' Birds."


DAY: (Singing) Tweedilly, tweedilly, deet. Tweedilly, dillidy, deet.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: The bird show - like that. I like birds.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Ray Brown's "Talkin' Birds."


DAY: (Singing) Tweet. tweet.


STEVE MILLER BAND: (Singing) I want to fly like an eagle.

SIMON: Ray Brown, host of the radio show and podcast "Talkin' Birds," joins us now. Ray, thanks very much for being back with us.

RAY BROWN: My pleasure, thank you, Scott.

SIMON: A lot of birds download your podcast?

BROWN: We're waiting for figures to come in on that.

SIMON: (Laughter).

BROWN: But they look encouraging so far.

SIMON: We got - I got one word for you today. OK?


WALTER BROOKE: (As Mr. McGuire) Plastics.

BROWN: Yeah. The famous line from "The Graduate."

SIMON: Exactly. Plastics - now, you know, we've heard a lot this summer - shopping bags. Then there was the heartbreaking viral video of the poor sea turtle with a straw in its nostril. Plastics harm birds, too.

BROWN: Plastics harm birds in a really, really big way. You know, it's almost obvious when you think of how much plastic is in the ocean. The latest studies say about 8 million tons are entering the ocean every year. And seabirds are particularly vulnerable to that because, you know, these plastics, Scott, when they get out into the ocean, they break down into very small pieces, even into microplastics, which are like the size of sesame seeds. A lot of seabirds mistake these for fish eggs. And they consume them, such that we now have a stat with 90 percent of seabirds with plastic in their systems. And especially hard hit are albatrosses. These are these great iconic birds with the enormous wingspans that cruise over the open oceans and mostly go into shore only to breed and to nest. Nearly 40 percent of one of these species of albatross, the Layson albatross - nearly 40 percent of the chicks die before fledging. And when they do necropsies on these birds, they find their stomachs filled with plastic trash. So then neither the chicks nor the adults know that this isn't food. The adults feed it to the chicks. And, of course, they starve to death.

SIMON: You had J.D. Bergeron on your show who heads up the International Bird Rescue. And he brought up another danger for birds in water, I gather, and that's fishing lines.


J.D. BERGERON: Our full-time veterinarian grimly likes to say that she's a fishing-line, fish-hook veterinarian first and foremost. The kind of birds that we work with come into contact with these things that get left behind. And I like to say that, you know, it may not be your fishing line or fish hook or litter that's lying on the beach or near the pond, but if you see it, pick it up and dispose of it someplace safely.

SIMON: That's good advice for everyone, isn't it?

BROWN: Absolutely. You know, fortunately, there are a lot of big cleanups going on, you know, ocean beaches all over the world with the Nature Conservancy and the Ocean Conservancy and other groups cleaning up, you know, tons and tons of trash.

SIMON: What about - I gather, it's called plogging? That's in Sweden.

BROWN: Yeah. In Sweden, I think the Swedish word is (foreign language spoken). I hope I'm pretty close with that, but...

SIMON: Ray, are you all right, man?

BROWN: I'll be OK (laughter).

SIMON: You seem to bringing up lunch. Yes. Go ahead. Yeah.

BROWN: So it translates to pick up - does (foreign language spoken). And in this case, it refers to picking up trash. So joggers there pick up trash while they're jogging. So I figured, you know, if joggers can do plogging. I think birders should be able to do plirding (ph) and do the same kind of thing.

SIMON: Ray Brown, host of the radio show and podcast "Talkin' Birds." Thanks so much for being back with us, Ray.

BROWN: Thank you, Scott. Remember; plird is the word. Keep calm and plird on.

SIMON: (Laughter) I wish I knew how to say thank you in Swedish.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Ray Brown's "Talkin' Birds" - I love that show.


DAY: (Singing) Tweedilly, didilly, deet. Tweet. Tweet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.