Report on the World’s Birds
September 22, 2008 (Ottawa & Port Rowan) – Common birds are in decline across the world, providing evidence of a rapid deterioration in the global environment that is affecting all life on Earth – including human life, according to a new report released today at BirdLife International’s World Conference in Buenos Aires.
The State of the World’s Birds publication and website highlight population declines of more than 50% over the last 40 years for 20 of North America’s most common bird species. These include boreal breeders (such as Evening Grosbeak, Greater Scaup and Boreal Chickadee) and numerous grassland species (Eastern Meadowlark, Loggerhead Shrike, Field Sparrow and Grasshopper Sparrow).
Canadian and U.S. results from the Breeding Bird Survey and the annual, continent-wide Christmas Bird Count were analyzed together to produce this report on how the common birds of North America are faring. “Though there is much we still need to learn about what is driving the declines, loss and degradation of habitat are usually implicated,” according to Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada’s Director of National Programs. “It is particularly worrying when we find that some of our most common species are headed into trouble.”
The story is the same for birds migrating between North American and Latin America. Over half (57%) of neotropical migrants monitored on their breeding grounds have suffered from population declines over the last four decades, including migratory species such as the Chimney Swift, Bobolink, and Canada Warbler.
“Birds are effective indicators of the health of our environment,” said Sarah Wren, Conservation Biologist at Nature Canada. “The truth is that while healthy bird populations suggest healthy habitats for all species, including humans, the opposite is also true. These bird declines should be seen as a warning.”
State of the World’s Birds identifies many key global threats, including human-induced climate change, the intensification of industrial-scale agriculture and fishing, the spread of invasive species, logging and the replacement of natural forest with monocultural plantations.
The decline of birds in Canada represents a literal ‘canary in the coal mine’ for our environment. Yet bird conservation groups agree that these trends are not irreversible.
“The federal government is legally responsible for protecting migratory birds,” said Wren. “Meeting this obligation must involve protecting Canada’s 597 Important Bird Areas as part of an integrated conservation plan.”
Large-scale public participation in monitoring and habitat stewardship is integral to the conservation of North American birds. “Through programs such as the Christmas Bird Count and Project FeederWatch, volunteer ‘Citizen Scientists’ play a vital role in gathering information about bird population status and trends. Their findings help researchers understand how changes in our landscape are affecting birds and biodiversity,” said McCracken.
The full report, State of the World’s Birds, is available online at http://www.birdlife.org/sowb.
Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada are Canadian co-partners in BirdLife International. Together we deliver the international Important Bird Areas (IBA) program in Canada, which aims to identify, conserve and monitor a network of sites that provides essential habitat for bird populations.