New report highlights declines in North American species


A new report has highlighted the threats facing unprotected North American bird species, complementing a 2019 publication that hinted that two-thirds of Nearctic birds could end up at the risk of extinction.

The Birds of Conservation Concern 2021 report, produced by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), features 269 bird species, none of which are currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. By publishing this report, the USFWS aims to set priorities and spur co-operative efforts to avoid the need for an endangered listing.

North American shorebirds, such as Willet, are in decline (Dave Collins).

This year's report includes a significant number of grassland bird species, such as Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Greater Sage Grouse, both of which face serious threats from oil and gas development and invasive plant species on public and private lands. Both species receive significant federal attention, and Lesser Prairie-Chicken was recently proposed to be added to the Endangered Species list.

The report did not assess the threat of climate change comprehensively, but a 2019 publication from the National Audubon Society showed that two-thirds of North American bird species risk extinction if nothing is done to address climate change.

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"With three billion birds lost in North America since 1970, we are in a bird emergency – and we know that if they are in trouble, so are we," said Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president for conservation policy at National Audubon Society. 

"The priority species identified by the Fish and Wildlife Service provide a common playbook for federal, state and tribal leaders as well as many other stakeholders to align their conservation investments. We will all need to work together in order to bring birds back and with them the lands and waters we all need to thrive."

The report also includes a significant number of shorebirds and seabirds. North American shorebird populations have decreased by 70% since 1973, while seabird populations worldwide have decreased by 70% since 1950. Species such as American Oystercatcher, Elegant Tern and Black-footed Albatross are facing some of the most serious threats due to decreasing coastal habitat and changing ocean conditions.

"All of the birds in this report are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which underscores the importance of the administration's effort to reinstate long-standing protections under the law and drive proactive conservation before birds become endangered or threatened," said Erik Schneider, policy manager, National Audubon Society.

"Restoring and strengthening the MBTA is a key step, but we need a suite of legislative and administrative actions that can lay a foundation for more successful, collaborative conservation efforts across the board whether public or private."

You can view the report here.