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The State of the Birds: Four critical habitats (videos)

By Micaela Jemison


Wetlands are one of the habitats to benefit most from conservation. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has enabled strategic conservation projects covering a collective area larger than Tennessee. While wetland loss continues in some regions, the Act has helped protect and restore wetlands through public-private partnerships across the United States, thereby reversing declines in waterfowl populations such as the mallard and blue-winged teal.

Arid and Grasslands

After examining the population trends of birds in desert, sagebrush and chaparral habitats of the West, the report’s authors identify aridlands as the habitat with the steepest population declines in the nation. There has been a 46 percent loss of these birds since 1968 in states such as Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to development are the largest threats. These are also significant threats in the nation’s grasslands, where the report notes a decline in breeding birds, like the eastern meadowlark and the bobolink, of nearly 40 percent since 1968. That decline, however, has leveled off since 1990—a result of the significant investments in grassland bird conservation.


The creation and preservation of large swaths of forests through public-private partnerships in the Appalachian Mountains and the Northwest has helped declining forest-dependent species such as the golden-winged warbler and the oak titmouse. Efforts like this are essential, as forest-dependent birds have declined nearly 20 percent in the western U.S. since 1968 and 32 percent in the east.


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. In general, shorebirds along the coasts are squeezed into shrinking strips of habitat due to development. But among the 49 coastal species examined, there has been a steady rise in population of 28 percent since 1968—a direct result of the establishment of 160 national coastal wildlife refuges and nearly 600,000 acres of national seashore in 10 states.


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