Report shows steep declines for North American birds

By Lauren McDonald

Mallard duck. ©Bill Gracey

One-third of all bird species in North America are in need of urgent conservation action, according to a report released by an international coalition of bird biologists and conservationists from Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

The report, entitled the State of North America’s Birds 2016, was released by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty. NABCI is an international coalition between Canada, Mexico, and the United States to protect North American avian species and their habitats. NABCI is comprised various government agencies and non-profits, including The Wildlife Society.

The report is the first ever conservation vulnerability assessment for all 1,154 species of birds that occur in North America and off the coast. Of the 1,154 species, 432 were identified as high priority concern, aligning with growing trends of habitat loss, pollution and climate change.

According to the report, more than half of all species from oceans and tropical forests are experiencing sharp declines in population growth due to small ranges and threats to their habitats. Coastal and grassland species are also at risk because of habitat loss. Generalists – birds that can live in multiple habitats – are faring better because of their ability to adapt to a changing environment.

However, NABCI’s report highlighted the success of wetlands conservation efforts, which have drastically improved the statuses of waterfowl and waterbirds in North America. Funding programs – like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Duck Stamp – have provided over $2 billion to collaborative efforts that restore wetlands.

NABCI believes that the model used to save wetlands and waterfowl can be used to improve the conservation status of bird species across North America. NABCI intends to use the report as a scientific tool to improve policy and the conservation status of native birds in North America.

Lauren McDonald is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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