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Bird Story

2022 State of the Birds Report shows broad declines for U.S. species, except for waterfowl

Paul A. Smith – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A sobering report released last week showed declines in U.S. birds in every habitat except wetlands and called for new conservation measures to help reverse the losses.

The 2022 U.S. State of the Birds Report released last week by the U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative used the latest bird monitoring and scientific data to assess the status and health of all U.S. bird species, according to its authors.

It was the first comprehensive look at the nation’s birds since a 2019 study showed the loss of nearly 3 billion birds in the U.S. and Canada over the last 50 years.

The 2022 NABCI report shows that more than half of bird species are declining and some are at a tipping point toward extinction.

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 U.S.

Findings in the 2022 State of the Birds report included:

  • 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.
  • Waterbirds and ducks in the U.S. have increased by 18% and 34%, respectively, during the same period.
  • Seventy 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. These species, none of which are currently listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act, include the rufous hummingbird, golden-winged warbler and black-footed albatross.
  • Hawaii’s ten most endangered species are collectively represented by fewer than 5,500 individual birds.
  • Shorebirds are down 33% since 1970.

The Birds of Conservation Concern (BCC) list, mandated by law and updated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, identified 269 migratory nongame bird species that, without additional conservation actions, are likely to become candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

“From grassland birds to seabirds to Hawaiian birds, we continue to see that nearly all groups of birds and types of bird habitat have declined significantly,” said Martha Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act may help recover declining bird species

The report highlights the need for new funding and support.

“The State of the Birds report paints a grim picture for birds, but it also shows how concerted conservation efforts and investments can recover species,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico).

Heinrich is a sponsor of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, a bill passed by the House of Representatives but awaiting a vote in the Senate. The proposal would provide about $1 billion annually to states and tribes for nongame wildlife management.

“Similar to laws like the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is widely supported and would smartly address the wildlife crisis in this country,” Heinrich said.

To view the full report, visit stateofthebirds.org/2022/.

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