DOI Study Offers Hope to Halt Bird Declines

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on March 19 released the first ever comprehensive report on bird populations in the United States, showing that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened, or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other threats.

At the same time, the report highlights examples, including many species of waterfowl, where habitat restoration and conservation have reversed previous declines, offering hope that it is not too late to take action to save declining populations.

"From shorebirds in New England to warblers in Michigan to songbirds in Hawaii, we are seeing disturbing downward population trends that should set off environmental alarm bells," Salazar said. "We must work together now to ensure we never hear the deafening silence in our forests, fields, and backyards.”

The report, The U.S. State of the Birds, synthesizes data from three long-running bird censuses conducted by thousands of citizen scientists and professional biologists.

In particular, it calls attention to the crisis in Hawaii, where more birds are in danger of extinction than anywhere else in the United States. In addition, the report indicates a 40 percent decline in grassland birds over the past 40 years, a 30 percent decline in birds of arid lands, and high concern for many coastal shorebirds. Furthermore, 39 percent of species dependent on U.S. oceans have declined.

The report also reveals convincing evidence that birds can respond quickly and positively to conservation action. The data show dramatic increases in many wetland birds such as pelicans, herons, egrets, osprey, and ducks, a testament to numerous cooperative conservation partnerships that have resulted in protection, enhancement, and management of more than 30 million wetland acres.

Surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey, including the annual Breeding Bird Survey, combined with data gathered through volunteer citizen science program such as the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, show once abundant birds such as the northern bobwhite and marbled murrelet are declining significantly.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinated creation of the new report as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, which includes partners from American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report is available at http://www.stateofthebirds.org.

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