In April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a plan to downlist or delist 80 species — mammals, birds, plants, and others — that are currently listed as Threatened or Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The plan calls for final decisions to be made in the next three years.
Of the 20 bird species on the list, conservationists say many of the potential status changes are warranted, but others are not.
The proposals include delisting Hawaiian Hawk (’Io), Interior Least Tern, and Kirtland’s Warbler — birds that have recovered well, says Jacob Malcom, director of the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders of Wildlife.
Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy questions suggestions to either delist or downlist Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, saying they “still need the current level of, or additional, protection.”
“In the case of the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, we oppose delisting and ask for an upgrading to Endangered status and designation of critical habitat, which is overdue,” he says. “We are also concerned and opposed to premature efforts to delist or downgrade the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.”
An FWS plan for the woodpecker would request that landowners voluntarily take steps to help birds on their properties for the next 30 years.
FWS would also delist 10 bird species “due to extinction.” They include nine birds from Hawaii and other Pacific islands — Po`ouli, Maui Nukupuu, Maui Akepa, Molokai Creeper, Bridled White-eye of Guam, Kauai Akialoa, Kauai `O`o, Large Kauai Thrush, and Kauai Nukupuu.
The tenth species is the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the last confirmed sighting of which was in 1944.
“Is the Ivory-billed Woodpecker extinct? There’s no absolute proof either way,” says Mike Parr, ABC president. “We still have hope. As long as rumors about the Ivory-bill circulate, this species may simply be ‘lost’ rather than extinct.
A version of this article will be published in “Birding Briefs” in the September/October 2019 issue of BirdWatching magazine.