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

Hawaiian Goose

Hawaiian Goose

This species, also known as Nene, was known to live only on Hawaii's Big Island when Europeans arrived in 1778. But fossilized remains have been found on most of the other main Hawaiian Islands. The species likely lost out to human agricultural practices after Polynesians made landfall about 1,000 years ago.

It numbered only 30 birds in 1952, and by 1982, the population had increased to approximately 600 individuals. In 2016, officials estimated the total to be 2,855 birds statewide. Nene are now found on all of the main islands, including Oahu, where it had not been seen since the 18th century.

This year, the federal government proposed downlisting the species from Endangered to Threatened, noting that "substantial self-sustaining populations exist and are well distributed in multiple localities on Hawaii Island, Maui, and Kauai."

Laure Wilson Neish took the portrait above on the Big Island.

Originally Published