Birds in Trouble, What Can We Do?

Birds are in trouble for many reasons. Recently two reports have come out documenting just how much trouble. One of these reports is, The State of the Birds Report 2014.

From the press release.

“Washington, D.C.—One hundred years after the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the nation’s top bird science and conservation groups have come together to publish The State of the Birds 2014—the most comprehensive review of long-term trend data for U.S. birds ever conducted. The authors call the results unsettling. The report finds bird populations declining across several key habitats, and it includes a “watch list” of bird species in need of immediate conservation help. The report also reveals, however, that in areas where a strong conservation investment has been made, bird populations are recovering.”

“Because the ‘state of the birds’ mirrors the state of their habitats, our national wildlife refuges, national parks, national seashores, and other public lands are critical safe havens for many of these species—especially in the face of climate change—one of the biggest challenges to habitat conservation for all species in the 21st century,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.”

“In addition to assessing population trends in the seven key habitats, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative members created a State of the Birds Watch List. The 230 species on the list are currently endangered or at risk of becoming endangered without significant conservation. Forty-two of them are pelagic (open ocean) species…More than half of all U.S. shorebird species are on the Watch List, including the piping plover, long-billed curlew and red knot. Loss of habitat and uncontrolled harvesting in the South America and Caribbean are some of their biggest threats…One of the more dire groups on the Watch List is made up of the 33 Hawaiian forest species, 23 of which are listed as federally endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The report’s authors have deemed Hawaii the “bird extinction capital of the world”—no place has had more extinctions since human settlement…Another group on the Watch List will require international cooperation: neotropical migrants. These species that breed in North America but migrate south of the U.S. border in winter hold 30 spots on the Watch List…The strongest finding in The State of the Birds 2014 is simple: conservation works. Ducks fly once again in great numbers up the Mississippi River and across the Chesapeake Bay. California condors are rebounding from just 22 birds to more than 200 today. Bald eagles, brown pelicans, peregrine falcons—all species once headed the way of the passenger pigeon—are now abundant.”

In the report scientists from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) identified the 33 U.S. common bird species in steep decline. Some of these birds might surprise you. Others not so much.

The numbers of birds killed by cats and windows is staggering!

The other report is the Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report. It documents 314 birds on the brink of extinction because of shrinking and shifting ranges caused by climate change. I had been reading about the pending release of this report for sometime and looked forward to reading it. I’ve read much of the report and Audubon did a great job in the research and presentation and is certainly convincing. Check out this video:

As you watch the video, note that the Audubon scientist states that there are two things that people can do and one is, “reduce carbon pollution”. I have been getting constant emails from Audubon to take action (and also send them money) by contacting local politicians to support programs to reduce carbon pollution. They NEVER address the huge gorilla in the birding room. They never ask birders to think about how they bird or how much carbon they put into the air while birding. I’m not particularly surprised.

The September/October issue of Audubon is a special issue that is entirely about climate change and birds. It’s a great read that covers the subject in every way but that huge gorilla. I searched the whole issue and found not one suggestion about greening the birding experience. The marvelous irony is that their July/August issue featured Neil Hayward who set a new record of 750 bird species across the United States and Canada in 2013. I wrote about him last year when I was doing my “green” year. Let us review his carbon birding totals.

28 states and 7 provinces visited.

193,758 miles flown.

51,758 miles driven.

147 hours at sea.

Neil Hayward wasn’t the only birder doing a “Big Year” in 2013. Audubon Magazine titled the article, King Bird. Do you think there are birders out there who want to take his crown away. You bet there are! In that issue, Audubon didn’t mention that they had a new report coming out that documented the devastating effects on birds from carbon pollution. As I’ve stated many times, birding is a carbon intensive hobby. Birders across the country are doing ” Big Years and Days”, traveling around the world for their lists and taking off at a moment’s notice to chase that new and rare bird.

In their report Audubon encourages birders to do citizen science but they make no effort to encourage us to “green” that citizen science. Their Christmas Bird Count area on their website still features the, Return of the Mad Counter. It’s the story of Kelly McKay who traveled over 7100 miles during the 104th CBC while doing a count a day. During the 112th CBC they used 583,164 vehicle miles to just count birds within the count circle. Just a small fraction of Kelly McKay’s 7100 miles was counting birds in the count circle.

So my statement to Audubon is:


My final thought on the two reports is–Even if “conservation” works it will be of no use if climate change isn’t addressed.








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