Interest in birds and birdwatching surged during the Covid-19 pandemic, with legions of birders, new and old, recording the details of their feathered sightings with apps such as eBird. In the process, these citizen scientists delivered a glut of high-resolution data that has been a boon to American ornithologists looking to better understand bird populations.
Combined with decades of traditional biological surveys, this trove of data tells a story, and not a happy one. A new report out today from more than 30 science and conservation groups finds the populations of more than half of a selection of 259 bird species from across the United States are declining.
The publication, called the 2022 U.S. State of the Birds Report, also identifies 70 birds perched on a precipice. These “tipping point” species—including the rufous hummingbird, golden-winged warbler and black-footed albatross—aren’t yet in sufficiently dire straits to be listed as federally endangered, but their populations exhibit such worrying trends that this next step is all but assured if nothing changes. In calling out these specific species, the report suggests prioritizing them for conservation before the last-ditch effort of an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing becomes necessary.
The grim findings echo those of a headline-making 2019 paper published in the journal Science that estimated North America had lost three billion individual birds since 1970.
“Bird populations provide important information about the state of the environment—environments that we as humans also depend upon,” says Amanda Rodewald, an ornithologist at Cornell University and the co-chair of the science committee behind the report. “When we look at groups of birds seeing steep declines that’s a warning for us as well.” [Continue reading…]