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Almost one in five landbirds needs conservation action

Golden-winged Warbler is one of 19 land birds on the Red Watch List.
Golden-winged Warbler in northern New Jersey, by Jeffrey Crawn.

A new analysis of all landbirds in the continental U.S. and Canada documents widespread declines — a troubling indicator of the health of the birds and their ecosystems.

According to the new Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan, 86 of 448 landbirds, nearly 20 percent, are on a path toward endangerment and extinction in the absence of conservation action.

Of highest concern are 19 species on the plan‘s Red Watch List (see below): Gunnison Sage-Grouse, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, Golden-winged and Golden-cheeked Warblers, Black-capped Vireo, Bicknell’s Thrush, Tricolored Blackbird, and a dozen other much-threatened species with restricted distributions and small, declining populations. For them, the goal of conservation action is recovery.

Sixty-seven more landbirds — including 11 warblers, nine sparrows, five game birds, and five owls (Flammulated, Whiskered Screech, Snowy, Spotted, and Long-eared) — were placed on the Yellow Watch List, indicating that work is needed to prevent or reverse their decline.

The plan also describes 24 “common birds in steep decline” — landbirds that are still too numerous or widely distributed to warrant Watch List status but are experiencing long-term declines. Almost one-third migrate to Central or South America. Each has lost 50-90 percent of its population since 1970, and most are projected to lose another 50 percent in the next 20-25 years. The goal of action is to stabilize populations.

Terrell D. Rich, author of the cover story of our August 2016 issue about the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, was one of the plan’s 23 co-authors.


You can download the 2016 Landbird Conservation Plan Revision from Partners in Flight. — Chuck Hagner, Editor

Red Watch List

The plan identifies 86 landbirds that are on a path toward endangerment.
Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan: 2016 Revision for Canada and Continental United States.

Nineteen landbirds with extremely high vulnerability due to small population and range, high threats, and rangewide declines.

Gunnison Sage-Grouse
Lesser Prairie-Chicken
California Condor
Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Ivory-billed Woodpecker
Red-crowned Parrot
Black-capped Vireo
Florida Scrub-Jay
Bicknell’s Thrush
Bendire’s Thrasher
Le Conte’s Thrasher
Bachman’s Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Bachman’s Sparrow
Saltmarsh Sparrow
Tricolored Blackbird
Black Rosy-Finch
Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

Scientists document a billion fewer landbirds since 1970 (August 23, 2016)


Study: A third of North American bird species need urgent conservation action (May 18, 2016)

How the Migratory Bird Treaty Act can finally become an effective tool for conserving birds

Jane Goodall finds hope in face of conservation crisis



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