Published since 1946
NABCI Releases State of the Birds 2022
Partners working through the North American Bird Conservation Initiative released the most recent State of the Birds report on October 12. This is the first State of the Birds report since the landmark 2019 study that showed the loss of 3 billion birds in the U.S. and Canada over the last 50 years. Overall, the 2022 study documents that more than half of U.S. bird species are declining with the greatest loss in grassland birds and shorebirds, down 34% and 33% respectively since 1970. In addition, the report describes 70 newly identified “Tipping Point” species that have each lost 50% or more of their populations in the past 50 years, and could decline further if nothing changes.
“Despite best hopes and efforts, 70 Tipping Point bird species have a half life of just 50 years–meaning they will lose half their already dwindling populations in the next 50 years unless we take action,” said Dr. Peter Marra, director of The Earth Commons—Georgetown University’s Institute for Environment & Sustainability. “What we’ve outlined in this State of the Birds is a recipe for how conservation biologists can work with communities and use surgical precision to solve environmental problems—blending new technology and data to pinpoint the cause of losses and to reverse declines while we still have the best chance—now, before more birds plummet to endangered.”
The 2022 State of the Birds report notes that waterbirds and ducks have increased (18% and 34% respectively), thanks in large part to consistent funding and coordinated conservation efforts for wetlands. In their vision for the future, the NABCI partners suggest that this approach can help scale up conservation and chart the course for improved populations of other bird species and their habitats. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies notes that at least 62 of the 70 tipping point species have been identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in state wildlife action plans and would be prioritized for conservation with Recovering America’s Wildlife Act funding.
“By working together, we can overcome the challenges many of our birds face. Through collaboration, state and federal agencies, tribes, and nonprofit organizations turned the tide for many waterfowl and iconic species like bald eagles,” said Ron Regan, Executive Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “Given sufficient resources, like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, we can do the same for other species before it’s too late.”
The State of the Birds report outlines a Road to Recovery with a need for a strategic approach to bird conservation to help stop declines before they reach crisis levels. Specifically, the partners call for five actions:
- Identify Causes and Key Actions. Support or establish working groups that apply new science, technology, and social science to identify the causes of declines and the human dimensions of conservation solutions. Example: Evening Grosbeaks have declined by 90% since 1970. Scientists are working to understand why.
- Co-Create Solutions with Communities. Shape solutions with those affected: landowners; local, underrepresented, and Indigenous communities; scientists, agencies, and decision-makers. Example: Lesser Yellowlegs will benefit from conservation plans that work with communities toward socioeconomic and cultural solutions for sustainable harvesting.
- Develop a Full Annual Cycle Action Plan. Generate effective business plans and timelines, working with communities across the life cycle of birds. Example: Golden-winged Warbler management guidelines pinpoint and seek to address limiting factors on both breeding and wintering grounds.
- Take Coordinated Action. Implement solutions with participation from communities and cross-sector partners. Monitor and adjust if needed to reach goals. Example: Saltmarsh Sparrow recovery is possible with prioritized actions to address sea-level rise across more than a dozen states identified by the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture.
- Achieve Sustainable Recovery. Healthy populations and increasing or stable numbers indicate successful recovery. Example: Kirtland’s Warbler was removed from the Endangered Species list in 2019 after years of collaborative conservation efforts.
In addition, NABCI describes benefits beyond birds and outlines how Migratory Bird Joint Ventures are on the front end of implementing habitat conservation plans that are bird focused but have wide ranging benefits including climate resilience. Other efforts such as Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Programs in western forests use forest management that reduces wildfire risks while benefiting birds and other wildlife species.
The U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) is a coalition of 29 federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations, and bird-focused partnerships that advance biological, social, and scientific priorities for North American bird conservation.