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Monday, June 18, 2007

There Can Be Hope

On a less positive note, see the article below. You can help by helping preserve land and joining conservation organizations on the personal, local, state, federal and global levels. It makes us feel good that we bought the 23 acres of land next to us including the hayfield with nesting American Bitterns, Meadowlarks and Bobolinks, to save it from development. See above photo of the baby Bittern that was born on our land.
You can also enhance your yard for attracting birds and wildlife, no matter how small a parcel you have. If we all work together, there's hope.

New York, NY, June 14, 2007 - A new analysis by the National Audubon Society reveals
that populations of some of America’s most familiar and beloved birds have taken
a nosedive over the past forty years, with some down as much as 80 percent. The
dramatic declines are attributed to the loss of grasslands, healthy forests and
wetlands, and other critical habitats from multiple environmental threats such as
sprawl, energy development, and the spread of industrialized agriculture. The study
notes that these threats are now compounded by new and broader problems including
the escalating effects of global warming. In concert, they paint a challenging picture
for the future of many common species and send a serious warning about our increasing
toll on local habitats and the environment itself.

Species on Audubon’s list of 20 Common Birds in Decline have seen their populations
plummet at least 54 percent since 1967. The following are among those hardest hit:
• Northern Bobwhite populations are down 82 percent and have largely vanished from
northern parts of their range in Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and New England mainly
due to loss of suitable habitat to development, agricultural expansion and plantation-style
forestry practices.
• Evening Grosbeaks that range from mountains of the west to northern portions of
the east coast show population declines of nearly 78 percent amid increasing habitat
damage and loss from logging, mining, drilling and development.
• Northern Pintail populations in the continental U.S. are down nearly 78 percent
due to expanding agricultural activity in their prairie pothole breeding grounds.
• Greater Scaup populations that breed in Alaska, but winter in the Great Lakes
and along Atlantic to Pacific Coasts are being hard hit by global warming induced
melting of permafrost and invasion of formerly-southern species; populations are
down approximately 75 percent.
• Eastern Meadowlarks, down 71 percent, are declining as grasslands are lost to
industrialized agricultural practices. Increased demand for biofuel crops threatens
increased agricultural use of lands that are currently protected, making both Eastern
and Western Meadowlarks even more vulnerable.
• Common Terns, which nest on islands and forage for fish near ocean coasts, lakes
and rivers, are vulnerable to development, pollution and sea level rise from global
warming. Populations in unmanaged colonies have dropped as much as 70 percent, making
the species’ outlook increasingly dependent on targeted conservation efforts.
• Snow Buntings, which breed in Alaska and northern Canada, are suffering from the
loss of fragile tundra habitat as global warming alters and disrupts the Arctic’s
delicate ecological balance; populations are down 64 percent.
• Rufous Hummingbird populations have declined 58 percent as a result of the loss
of forest habitat to logging and development, in both their breeding range in the
Pacific Northwest and their wintering sites in Mexico.
• Whip-poor-wills, down 57 percent, are vulnerable to fragmentation and alteration
of their forest habitat from development and poor forest management practices.
• Little Blue Herons now number 150,000 in the U.S. and 110,000 in Mexico, down
54 percent in the U.S. Their decline is driven by wetland loss from development
and degradation of water quality, which limits their food supply.

Overall, agricultural and development pressures have driven grassland birds to some
of the worst declines, followed closely by shrub, wetland and forest-dependent species.
“Direct habitat loss continues to be a leading cause for concern,” said Audubon
Bird Conservation Director and analysis author, Greg Butcher, PhD. “But now we’re
seeing the added impact of large-scale environmental problems and policies.” Butcher
notes that global warming is damaging some key habitats and speeding the spread
of invasive species that spur further declines. Mounting demand for corn-based fuels
is expected to result in increased use of marginal farmland that currently serves
as important habitat. The fate of species such as Eastern Meadowlarks and Loggerhead
Shrikes could hinge on efforts to conserve these areas. “People who care about the
birds and about human quality of life need to get involved in habitat protection
at home, in pushing for better state and national protections and in making changes
in their daily routines,” Butcher adds.

Public response will shape the long-term outlook for the listed species. Unlike
WatchList birds, these Common Birds in Decline are not in immediate danger of extinction,
despite global populations as low as 500,000 for some species - the threshold for
a “common bird” designation. But even birds with significantly higher overall populations
are experiencing sharp declines, and with their populations down sharply, their
ecological roles are going unfilled and their ultimate fate is uncertain. Audubon
leaders hope the multiple threats to the birds people know will prompt individuals
to take multiple actions, both locally and directed toward state and national policies.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting, thanks for sharing with us!

dguzman said...

Is that a baby American bittern? Beautiful photo!

I'm currently reading the entire study and trying to look at the declines in groups--like ducks, woodpeckers, etc. Some groups are doing quite well, while others are being hit across the board. I'm planning a post on this subject soon.

Anonymous said...

HI, I was searching the web for info on hummer populations this summer. I am at 7000 feet elevation in Northern New Mexico and have fed them for years. There is a noticable decline in hummers this year. Neighbors say so too. Any other reports?