One third of North American bird species in danger of extinction


The North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) has just published The State of North America's Birds 2016 — and the prognosis for a third of the continent's birds is not good.

This first-ever comprehensive report all bird species that occur in Canada, the continental United States and Mexico was released by NABCI partners at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Canada, on behalf of all three countries, with a simultaneous event at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, in partnership with International Migratory Bird Day. NABCI was created by Canada, the United States and Mexico as a tri-national commitment to protect birds and their habitats, by assessing the conservation status of every species.

"This report will allow us to base conservation actions on the best available science on the status of birds and their habitats in North America," said Environment and Climate Change Canada Minister Catherine McKenna. "It is an unprecedented continental analysis, drawing on the efforts of tens of thousands of citizen-scientists from Canada, the US and Mexico."

The report shows that more than one third of all North American bird species need urgent conservation action and calls for a renewed continent-wide commitment to saving birds and their habitats. Healthy environments for birds also provide benefits to other wildlife and people, such as clean air and water, flood and erosion control, and coastal resilience, says the NABCI, and when bird populations struggle, our natural resources are stressed.

Kirtland's Warbler is responding well to conservation measures, but the new report shows that many other North American birds are also in danger. (Photo: USFWSmidwest, CC BY 2.0).

The report evaluates the conservation status of all native North American bird species across all major habitats, which include nine key ecosystems. It is based on the first-ever conservation vulnerability assessment for all 1,154 native bird species that occur in Canada, the continental US and Mexico, and reflects a collaboration between experts from all three countries.

The overall conservation status of each species takes into account its population trend, population size, extent of breeding and non-breeding ranges, and the severity of threats to populations. Methodology information, the complete assessment database, animated maps and other resources are available at stateofthebirds.org.

"This report is a superb demonstration of the power of birds and the growing power of citizen science. Tens of thousands of Canadians, Americans and Mexicans contributed bird sightings to help produce an unprecedented continent-wide assessment of North America's birds," added Dr John W Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Because birds are sensitive barometers of environmental health, I encourage leaders across our three nations, in both government and industry, to consider the findings in this report, which is based on the best available science about our bird populations. Across the continent, it is the will of the people that these species and their habitats be conserved for the future."

The report is being released during the Centennial year of the Migratory Bird Treaty, an agreement between the United States and Canada that promised collaborative conservation to protect the migratory birds of North America. In 1936, 20 years after the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty, Mexico and the US committed to a similar treaty connecting all of North America in its efforts to protect shared species.

Written by: Birdwatch