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Feds identify 269 ‘Birds of Conservation Concern’

Birds of Conservation Concern
Painted Bunting. Photo by Vineeth Radhakrishnan

For the first time in 13 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has updated its list of Birds of Conservation Concern, a report mandated by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1988.

The new report identifies 269 bird species, subspecies, or populations (collectively known as taxa) that represent high conservation priorities for FWS and deserve proactive attention.

It does not include 88 taxa that are protected by the Endangered Species Act (as of January 15, 2021), 12 species listed on the 2019 Partners in Flight Watch List, or 47 extinct birds.  

“This report serves as an early warning indicator for bird species in trouble and will help stimulate the collaborative conservation action needed to bring back declining bird species well before they become threatened or endangered,” said Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “Almost 3 billion birds have been lost in North America since 1970, and this scientific information will help focus conservation efforts where they are most needed.” 

Here are just a few of the newly listed Birds of Conservation Concern that caught our attention:

  • Eastern Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Chimney Swift
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Allen’s Hummingbird
  • American Avocet
  • two populations of Snowy Plover
  • two subspecies of Dunlin
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • California Gull
  • Common Tern
  • Laysan Albatross
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Clark’s Nutcracker
  • American Dipper
  • Bobolink
  • Bullock’s Oriole
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Painted Bunting

Here’s a breakdown of the 269 individual bird taxa of conservation concern:

  • 135 taxa are of conservation concern at the continental scale
  • 88 taxa are at the Bird Conservation Region scale
  • 29 taxa are on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
  • 35 taxa are on Hawaii and the Pacific Islands 

Eighteen taxa identified on the Continental/BCR lists are shared with either Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands or Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. The number of taxa on the Hawaii/Pacific Island list appears deceptively low, because a high number of birds there are already listed under the ESA.

All major bird groups are represented in the BCC 2021, but shorebirds, seabirds and some landbirds have particularly high representation. Of eligible taxa, 53% of shorebirds and 48% of seabirds met criteria for inclusion in the BCC 2021. Based on habitat designations of landbirds applied to the Continental and BCR scales, a high percentage of taxa inhabiting grasslands (54%) and aridlands (47%) were included in the BCC 2021, as were aerial insectivores (31%).


FWS notes that “inclusion in the Birds of Conservation Concern 2021 does not constitute a finding that listing under the ESA is warranted, or that substantial information exists to indicate that listing under the ESA may be warranted.”

The report and additional information are available here.

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at [email protected].

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