Birds: New Listings, Cutting-Edge Research, and At-Risk Assessments

March 17, 2010

For the first time in 25 years, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has updated the list of federally-protected migratory birds. The net result is the addition of 175 species, bringing the total to 1,007.

Species have been added, deleted, or revised due to factors such as new discoveries or changing science, nomenclature revisions, and corrections of previous errors.

The birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which involves the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Russia. The March 1, 2010, Federal Register notice for the changes includes all the details:

In addition to bird field guide books, there are several online sources for more information about each species, including:

In a related development, a team of government, university, and NGO researchers is kicking off what it calls "the largest avian research project ever undertaken," in order to better understand what effects climate change is having, and could have, on migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere. The long-term project is called the CLIMB Initiative (Climate Change and Interseasonal Movement of Birds). The team consists of the US Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Smithsonian Institution, World Wildlife Fund, National Wildlife Federation, and Ducks Unlimited. A Web site should be available in about a month or so.

The team plans to use cutting edge science to improve and expedite knowledge of the shifting habitat and movements of these birds. Efforts could be based on recent and looming developments in fields such as genetics, satellite imagery, and identification of geographically distinct isotopes of substances such as carbon and nitrogen found in materials such as bird feathers.

About 18 experts are expected to attend a kickoff meeting during which these and other methods will be discussed. It is scheduled for April 26-28, 2010, at the Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, WA, and is open to journalists. Much of the cutting-edge science is scheduled to be presented on April 27. For more information contact Susan Haig, 541-750-7482, cell 541-760-9151.

Based on existing knowledge about the effects of climate change on birds, a coalition of organizations said in a report released March 11, 2010, that hundreds of species are already known to be at risk from that factor alone, and that nearly a third of the 800 species in the US are endangered, threatened, or in significant decline.

The authoring organizations include the American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Geological Survey.