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Friday, March 20, 2009

State of The Birds

Bobolink, a species in decline

Roseate Tern, as federally endangered species

Many of you have now seen the State of the Birds report that just came out. Here is some information from it:
"Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today 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.
The report is available at

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."

We urge to read the report on their excellent website. Here are a few more quotes from the sections on specific habitats and how birds of those habitats are doing:

Grasslands -
"Of 46 grassland-breeding birds, 48% are species of conservation concern, including 4 with populations that are federally endangered. Eight of twelve sparrow species are listed as of conservation concern. Of the 42 grassland species with sufficient monitoring data, 23 are declining significantly.
Some of the American landscape’s most iconic birds are showing steep declines. Eastern and Western meadowlarks, Bobolinks, Short-eared Owls, and Northern Bobwhites have declined by 38–77% since 1968." (We are pleased that our own 45 acre farm, here in NH, still has nesting Bobolinks.)

Coasts -
"Of 173 bird species that use coastal habitats at any time of year, 53 are species of conservation concern and 14 are federally listed as endangered or threatened. Fourteen of twenty-seven shorebird species that primarily use coastal habitats have declined.
Federally listed as endangered: Brown Pelican, Wood Stork, (California) Clapper Rail, (Light-footed) Clapper Rail, Whooping Crane, (California) Least Tern, Roseate Tern, (Cape Sable) Seaside Sparrow. Threatened: Spectacled Eider, Steller’s Eider, Piping Plover, Snowy Plover, Marbled Murrelet."

Instead of feeling hopeless, we like that fact they have included a fine section on

What You Can Do

Here are a few things they include:

"The simple things you do every day, from the cup of coffee you drink in the morning to the lights you turn on at night, all have an effect on birds. Our everyday activities impact birds and their habitats. Human activity can deplete their food supplies, create new dangers for them to face, and present them with many challenges.

If we want to protect the birds around us and preserve their future, we need to begin to conduct our lives with consciousness about how our actions affect the world around us—not only the people, but the wildlife, the air, the water, and the land. Below are a few things you can do to help ensure healthy bird populations for future generations.

Drink shade-grown coffee. Coffee produced from shade-loving varieties means wintering habitat can be preserved for key migrant species such as the Cerulean Warbler. Many coffee companies now provide a range of coffee products that are shade-grown and friendly for birds. Ask your local grocery or coffee shop to stock a shade-grown alternative.

Reduce your use of pesticides. Not only can they be toxic to birds, but they kill the insects that birds eat. Weed instead of spraying! If you must use pesticides, look for biopesticide alternatives. Prevent pests from entering your home by replacing worn weather stripping and screens, and filling in gaps in floors and around windows and plumbing fixtures.

Keep your cat indoors. Even well-fed, cats kill birds. Keep cats inside. Not only will the birds be safer, your cat will be healthier and safer, too.

Plan your yard for diversity. Instead of a lawn with no benefit to wildlife, plant a mixture of native grasses, flowers, and shrubs. Use native species—birds like these best and they are best adapted to where you live. Your state or local native
plant society can help you choose species that will work best for you.

Prevent window strikes. Hundreds of millions of birds die each year as a result of hitting windows on every type of building. To reduce night lighting that interferes with migration, ask your office or apartment building manager to turn off exterior and interior lights during spring and fall migration. Place bird feeders within three feet of your windows. Break up the reflections of habitat in your windows by covering the outside of them with taut screens or window film.

Donate your old binoculars to conservation. If you have any old birding equipment just lying around, not being used, you can help our long-distance migrants and rare Latin American endemics by donating your old gear to biologists across the hemisphere through the Birders Exchange program or the Optics for Tropics program.

Reduce your carbon footprint. Do your part to help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels that cause global warming. Use an electric lawnmower; carpool, bicycle, or use public transport when possible; turn off lights when not in use; use low energy bulbs and Energy Star-rated appliances; call your power company and ask if you can buy your energy from renewable sources. Help organizations purchase conservation areas and forests that provide valuable habitat for birds, and helps lower atmospheric CO² levels.

Take action for birds and familiarize yourself with contemporary bird conservation issues. Knowing the issues will help you let your elected officials know which policy and programs can help bird conservation.

Participate in volunteer monitoring activities that help to document the status and trends of bird populations. There are many opportunities in this area, depending on your level of interest, ability to commit time, and level of expertise in bird identification.

Join a bird conservation organization. As individuals, there is only so much we can do for birds. But as a part of an organization with the expertise, broad reach, and partnership capacity of organization, you can make a difference for wild birds and their habitats locally, nationally, and internationally."


The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Bird lovers should ask their local bird hobby store if they carry shade-grown coffee. We just started carrying a Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center certified "Bird-Friendly" shade-grown coffee. It's the right thing to do for the birds and it tastes great too.

Anonymous said...

I saw a bobolink for the first time this past weekend. I spotted it while hiking the Appalachian Trail near Pawling, NY. I thought at first that it's markings were a trick of the light. It's such a striking bird.