A newly released State of the Birds report for the United States reveals a tale of two trends, one hopeful, one dire. Historically we have demonstrated that investment in bird conservation can pay off – for example, we have recovered at-risk species like waterfowl and the Peregrine Falcons by focused resources and efforts. However, North American populations continue to show widespread declines. In the west, forest-dependent and wetland birds are both showing a more recent decline that is of grave concern.
For most of the past 100 years, western forests have managed to encourage conifer tree dominance and discourage fires. But for many centuries before the 1900s, fires were common on this landscape, both natural wildfires and intentional burns by Indigenous peoples. Today those historic disturbance patterns that created a mosaic of conifer and broadleaf forest cover and successional stages have been disrupted, and large swaths of western forest landscapes have departed from their natural range of tree species and structural diversity. These areas of forest departure from natural patterns are also hotspots for western forest bird declines. Furthermore, these compromised forests have very little resilience to the forces of wildfire and climate change, which puts greater forest landscape health and forest resources (such as water reservoirs) at risk of disaster. Investments in forest restoration can turn around this dim outlook for western forests, western forest birds, and the people that call the west home.
“Western forest restoration programs that are integrating bird conservation objectives with efforts to increase climate-, fire-, and water-security for front-line communities provide just one of many such opportunities outlined in this year’s State of The Birds Report. This report highlights our work with Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Programs showing how a small investment in bird conservation specialists leverages huge forest restoration investments to ensure they pay off for birds and people. — Dr. John Alexander, Executive Director, Klamath Bird Observatory
Long-term trends of waterfowl show strong increases where investments in wetland conservation have improved conditions for birds and people. However, we are not seeing the same trends here in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in their history, Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges will be dry in fall 2022. In California’s Central Valley, limited water supplies forced a 60% reduction in rice in rice acreage in 2022, which traditionally provides crucial habitat for over 5 million wintering ducks. In these regions, the effects of drought are exacerbated by rigid local water laws and the over-allocation of limited water supplies that restrict sufficient water availability for waterfowl and waterbird habitats. Policies that create efficient water-sharing solutions are desperately needed if waterfowl and waterbird populations are to recover from drastic declines in the American West.
Published by 33 leading science and conservation organizations and agencies, the 2022 U.S. State of the Birds report is the first look at the nation’s birds since a landmark 2019 study showed the loss of 3 billion birds in the United States and Canada in 50 years. A culture of unsustainable forest management and fire suppression is catching up with us — now exacerbated by climate change it is putting birds and people at risk. Immense investments in large-scale forest management have the potential to pay off for birds if we pay attention to existing bird conservation science and habitat conservation plans.
Findings included in the report:
● More than half of U.S. bird species are declining.
● U.S. grassland birds are among the fastest declining with a 34% loss since 1970.
● 70 newly identified Tipping Point species have each lost 50% or more of their populations in the past 50 years, and are on track to lose another half in the next 50 years if nothing changes. They include beloved gems such as Rufous Hummingbirds, songsters such as Golden-winged Warblers, and oceanic travelers such as Black-footed Albatrosses.
The report used five sources of data, including the North American Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count, to track the health of breeding birds in habitats across the United States.
The Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) is a non-profit organization that advances bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. Working in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the ranges of migratory birds KBO emphasizes high-caliber science and the role of birds as indicators to inform and improve natural resource management. KBO also nurtures an environmental ethic through community outreach and education. www.KlamathBird.org
Established in 1999, the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) Committee is a coalition of state and federal government agencies, private organizations, and bird initiatives in the United States working to ensure the long-term health of North America’s native bird populations. The U.S. NABCI Committee creates a unique forum for federal and state agencies and non-governmental organizations to address shared bird conservation challenges and priorities. Its strength lies in its ability to directly engage conservation leaders and to collaboratively develop and express a collective voice that promotes integrated all-bird conservation. Individuals who serve on the U.S. NABCI Committee build working relationships across the bird conservation community, contributing their expertise and insights to mutually beneficial goals. Collaborative efforts are aimed at the U.S. and tri-national bird conservation communities and inform and highlight new frontiers in bird conservation. https://nabci-us.org/committee/
Media contact—Elva Manquera, Klamath Bird Observatory, firstname.lastname@example.org, (541) 908-0040
Media kit includes 2022 State of the Birds Report (PDF) and multimedia. Use of provided graphics, bird photos, sounds, and videos is protected by copyright and permitted only within stories about the content of the 2022 State of the Birds report. Redistribution or any other use is prohibited without express written permission of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology or the copyright owner.
Klamath Bird Observatory
PO Box 758
Ashland, Oregon 97520