A third of US bird species need conserving31/10/2012 09:41:52 New assessment covers all US species and subspecies - Hawai'i of particular concern
October 2012. A new study on the conservation status of American birds completed by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is the first ever published to include the full range of bird diversity in all 50 U.S. states and dependent territories. The study finds that more than one third of these birds are in need of conservation attention. More details, including a complete bird list with conservation rankings, can be found at abcbirds.org/checklist.
While the conservation status of bird species has been widely researched in the past, the new study is the first national assessment to also rank the status of subspecies: regional forms of species that differ in appearance, and sometimes in habitat choice and migration patterns.
"By looking beyond the species we can better gauge the conservation status of the total diversity of birds in the United States," said the study's principal author and American Bird Conservancy Vice President, Mike Parr. "There are more than twice as many subspecies recognized as there are full species, so these data provide a more complete picture than we have ever had previously. In addition, birds that are today classed as subspecies may tomorrow be re-classified as full species when more information comes to light.
This study will help make sure we don't miss these birds as we move forward with conservation programs. While the good news is that most of the highest scoring (most "At-Risk") birds are already protected by the Endangered Species Act, there are definitely some surprises in here too," Parr said.
"ABC's Conservation Ranking of bird subspecies is a major contribution to our understanding of bird conservation priorities. This assessment elevates these taxa to genuine elements of biodiversity that deserve more attention, and reinforces the fact that we have bird conservation work to do essentially anywhere you look in the United States" said Terry Rich, National Coordinator for Partners in Flight (PIF), a cooperative effort concerned with conserving bird populations in the Western Hemisphere.
Most at risk
These are the most At-Risk birds not currently listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including candidates (all are in the "At-Risk" category, with scores between 17 and 20).
Subspecies of particular concern
Hawai'i birds of greatest concern
"By focusing new conservation attention on distinctive bird populations adapted to local habitats, this new analysis adds significantly to our species-centric view of conservation priorities," said Ken Rosenberg of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Chair of Partners in Flight's International Science Committee. "Our hope is that more regional and local groups will become engaged in helping to keep these birds from slipping through the conservation cracks."
“Without the significant body of work already conducted by Partners in Flight and the many independent scientists and volunteers who have contributed the core data on species, the current study would not have been possible,” Parr added.
1826 birds assessed
“Many of the species and subspecies that are of greatest concern are specialists – restricted to certain food sources or particular natural habitats,” said American Bird Conservancy President George Fenwick. “We are urging the bird conservation community to take a closer look at the Vulnerable and At-Risk species and subspecies in particular. Many of these are below the radar for conservation right now,” he added. “Of course this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to keep common birds common as well. As conservationists, our goal should be to maintain both the abundance and the diversity of birds. Both common and rare species are sustaining significant and unnecessary losses due to habitat change and avoidable mortality caused, for example, by collisions, pesticides, and cat predation.”
“While this assessment is the most complete we have, it should be considered a starting point, not an endpoint,” said David Pashley, ABC’s Vice President of U.S. Conservation Partnerships. “We hope it will begin a conversation that will lead to an optimal system of both setting and acting on bird conservation priorities for all birds."
“The new study also provides a baseline or “scorecard” against which future changes in bird populations and threats can be assessed,” added Parr. “The total of all the conservation assessment scores for the 1,826 taxa amounts to 21,662. When we reassess bird conservation status in the future, we will be able to see how this total number differs, providing a measure of comparison to this 2012 assessment."