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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

California Condor

California Condor
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The California Condor declined due to persecution, poisoning (consuming lead fragments from carcasses left behind by hunters, and by consuming poisoned animals), and collisions with power lines," notes the American Bird Conservancy. "In 1987, with just 22 left, the last remaining wild birds were taken into captivity. After five years of intensive captive breeding, reintroductions began at sites in Arizona and California."

In December 2017, the total world condor population stood at 463 birds, up from 446 the year before. The number included 290 in the wild and 173 in captivity. Released birds have been nesting in the wild for several years in California, Arizona/Utah, and Mexico's Baja Peninsula. The 2018 nesting season marked a significant milestone, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, because 12 pairs nested in the mountains of Ventura, Santa Barbara and Kern counties — the highest number of nests ever recorded in southern California.

“Not only do we have more nests, but they are also spread out across a broader area, indicating that California Condors continue to expand back into parts of their historic range,” wildlife biologist Molly Astell said.

Peter Wraight took the photo above in Big Sur, California. 

Readers of BirdWatching in early 2013 voted California Condor the most-wanted bird in the United States and Canada. Here’s what you need to know to add it to your life list.

Originally Published

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