"Tragedy" for Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler: (photo: FundaciiÃn ProAves www.proaves.org).

The National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the US) and 28 other organizations have expressed grave concerns over the future of the Cerulean Warbler following the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) not to list the songbird as a threatened species. The Cerulean Warbler is Red-listed as Vulnerable by BirdLife International, the official Red List Authority for birds for the IUCN Red List.

The announcement follows six years of campaigning and petitioning by the organisations involved, during which time the FWS have been accused of missing numerous deadlines required under the Endangered Species Act.

The Cerulean Warbler population in the U.S. has dropped almost 82 percent throughout the last 40 years, making it the fastest-declining warbler in the country. The rate of decline has quickened and the threats to its survival, particularly from mountain removal mining, have worsened while the groups' petition has been pending before the FWS.

"The birding community is greatly concerned because the Cerulean has been declining throughout its range for such a long period of time," said Greg Butcher, Ph.D., Director of Bird Conservation with Audubon.

Since the petition was filed, new information has come to light about the increasing loss and fragmentation of the Cerulean's eastern forest habitat from mountaintop removal mining. This form of surface mining is expected to increase dramatically in the core of the Cerulean Warbler's range where the bird has already suffered population declines of up to 80 percent.

The National Audubon Society and other conservation groups have vowed to continue efforts to protect Cerulean Warbler, including a possible legal challenge to the decision.

As well as facing threats to their North American breeding grounds, migrants like Cerulean Warbler also face threats to wintering grounds in the Neotropics to the south of the Tropic of Cancer. For one third of these 'Neotropical migrants', their wintering range and/or important stopover sites lie within one of the most biodiverse yet threatened areas on the planet.

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Written by: BirdLife International