A coalition has just released “State of the Birds,” a “first-ever comprehensive report on bird populations in the United States.”

“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,” according to the 36-page report released March 19th.

“Just as they were when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring nearly 50 years ago, birds today are a bellwether of the health of land, water and ecosystems,” said Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department of Interior. “From shorebirds in New England to warblers in Michigan to songbirds in Hawaii, we are seeing disturbing downward population trends that should set off environmental alarm bells. We must work together now to ensure we never hear the deafening silence in our forests, fields and backyards that Rachel Carson warned us about.”

“The United States is home to a tremendous diversity of native birds,” the report indicates, “with more than 800 species inhabiting terrestrial, coastal, and ocean habitats, including Hawaii. Among these species, 67 are federally listed as endangered or threatened. An additional 184 are species of conservation concern because of their small distribution, high threats, or declining populations.

“Birds are bellwethers of our natural and cultural health as a nation – they are indicators of the integrity of the environments that provide us with clean air and water, fertile soils, abundant wildlife, and the natural resources on which our economic development depends.

“Successful conservation requires information about the population status of every species to ensure the survival of endangered birds and to manage common species so they never become threatened.”

Trends in the numbers of different species was developed from three sources: 1) the North American Breeding Bird Survey, 2) Christmas Bird Count, and 3) waterfowl breeding population surveys. Information gathered since 1968 was used in the analysis.

Conditions of wild habitats used by birds was a particular focus, with a discussion of aridlands, grasslands, different types of forest, Arctic and alpine regions, wetlands, coasts, oceans. For each topic, there is a brief section on current conditions, species in particular trouble, major threats, possible solutions and reasons for hope for the species’ continued survival.

There are “spotlights” included for resident game birds, urban birds, waterfowl, marsh birds, and the endemic species of the Hawaiian Islands.

Identified threats and challenges to birds, briefly summarized within the report, are:

  • Residential and commercial development
  • Agriculture
  • Energy production and mining
  • Natural resource use
  • Invasive and problem species
  • Pollution
  • Climate change

“While some bird species are holding their own, many once common species are declining sharply in population. Habitat availability and quality is the key to healthy, thriving bird populations,” said Dave Mehlman of The Nature Conservancy.

The report was a joint venture issued by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, American Bird Conservancy, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Audubon Society, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, The Nature Conservancy, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Partners in Flight and support from several coalitions working to conserve migratory birds.

A web-site with further details is also available, and includes details on what people can do to help conserve the bird diversity of the nation.

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