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10 bird species that are still here thanks to the Endangered Species Act

Among the birds that are better off thanks to Endangered Species Act protections (l-r): Brown Pelican, Golden-cheeked Warbler, and Piping Plover. Photos by Tony Britton, Lora Render, and Michael Rossacci

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The Endangered Species Act is one of the most effective, and arguably the best known, environmental laws in the United States. It has been in place since President Nixon signed it into law in 1973, and it enjoys broad support among the American public. 

In a 2016 report, the American Bird Conservancy found that recovery success for listed bird species was at 70 percent nationwide — 78 percent for mainland birds and 52 percent for Hawaiian species. Some have recovered enough to have been delisted while others have bounced back but have yet to meet recovery goals.

Despite the public support and decent track record, Congress has been trying to weaken the law for years, and the Trump administration recently joined in by proposing fundamental changes to the way the ESA is implemented. 

Audubon, the American Bird Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and other conservation groups are pushing back. To add your voice, visit their websites to learn how. And if you need a bit of inspiration — and examples of birds that have benefited from being listed under the ESA — flip through the following slideshow. The photos all come from talented photographers who’ve added their images to our online galleries. — Matt Mendenhall

Whooping Crane

Whooping Crane
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Early in our nation’s history, this wetland bird ranged from central Canada to Mexico and from Utah to the Atlantic coast. Habitat loss and unregulated hunting led to a steady decline. In 1944, the species hit its low point at 23 birds. In 1967, when the first eggs were collected to begin a captive flock, only 45 Whooping Cranes existed. 

After decades of active management, the wild population that winters in Texas and breeds in Canada reached 505 in early 2018, up from 431 the winter before. The total population, including captive birds and reintroduced flocks, is now over 800 cranes. 

Christopher Ciccone took the photo above at the Whooper’s main wintering site, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, on the Texas coast. 

Readers of BirdWatching in early 2013 voted Whooping Crane the second most-wanted bird in the United States and Canada. Here’s what you need to know to add it to your life list, and here are 10 things you might not know about the species.

Originally Published

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