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

Subscribe today to BirdWatching magazine for ID tips, conservation news, and much more.

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

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Previous
Next

This is a bird of pine forests in the southeastern U.S. It became endangered when mature forests were cut down from the 1800s to the mid-1900s. Even in the late 1900s, the species continued to decline, but since the late 1990s, the population has begun to rise.

The woodpecker utilizes a cooperative breeding style in which groups of the birds remain together year-round in clusters. In 1999, it numbered around 11,000 individuals in about 4,700 groups, and in 2016, the population had risen to around 15,000 birds in 5,627 clusters.

S. Hunter Spenceley took the shot above at Withlacoochee State Forest in Florida. The bird's name refers to a red tufts (cockades) on the side of the male's head; they're seldom seen.

Originally Published

Read our newsletter!

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up for Free