Displaying items by tag: ABC

“World’s Rarest Bird” Sighted in Brazil

 

Existence of Female Stresemann’s Bristlefront Renews Hope for Species’ Survival

 

Contact: Amy Upgren, American Bird Conservancy, Alliance for Zero Extinction Program Officer, Phone: 540-253-5780 | Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Alexander Zaidan of Fundação Biodiversitas photographed this female Stresemann’s Bristlefront on Dec. 12, 2018 re-confirming the species’ existence. Hear a recording of the bird.

(Washington, D.C., December 20, 2018) An individual Stresemann’s Bristlefront, one of the world’s most endangered birds, was recently observed in Brazil after months of searches had come up empty. Sightings of the female bristlefront on December 12th and 14th in fragments of habitat in Bahia, Brazil, have renewed hope that there is still time to save this remarkable, ground-nesting songbird from extinction. With only one currently known individual, this may well be the world’s rarest bird — although researchers do hope to find more individuals in the near future.

 

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and its partner organization in Brazil, Fundação Biodiversitas, have been on high alert about the species’ population, which numbered as few as 15 in recent years. In a bid to assess the current population, Fundação Biodiversitas, supported by ABC, sent a team this fall to scour the species’ remaining habitat, which includes forest within and outside of the Mata do Passarinho, or “Songbird Forest,” Reserve.  After several unsuccessful searches, the female bristlefront was seen outside the reserve’s boundaries by Alexander Zaidan of Fundação Biodiversitas and researcher Marcos Rezende Peres.  The team also obtained a recording of the bird.

 

Alexander Zaidan (left) and Marcos Rezende Peres (right) in the field after finding the bristlefront.

 

Notoriously difficult to detect, the Stresemann's Bristlefront has gone missing previously. It had been undetected for more than 50 years when it was rediscovered in 1995, also in the Brazilian state of Bahia.In 2007, Fundação Biodiversitas, with support from ABC, Rainforest Trust, and other organizations, established the Mata do Passarinho Reserve to safeguard habitat for this and other rare species, such as the Banded Cotinga. The reserve preserves an important fragment of Atlantic Forest — one of the most threatened biomes in the world, with less than 10 percent of its original habitat remaining.

 

About the size of a Gray Catbird or Northern Cardinal, the Stresemann’s Bristlefront is named for the stiff bristles on its face and is classified as a tapaculo — one in a family of 50-plus species found mainly in South America and known for their skulking habits. Unlike most songbirds, this species nests in underground tunnels.

 

Many details of this bird’s life history remain a mystery, but before these details can be studied, the species' drop toward extinction must be halted. For now, the best chance at saving this species is to protect its remaining habitat.

 

With a dangerously small population, even slight disturbances could have major impacts on this species, as recent events have illustrated. Over the last five years, this region of northeastern Brazil has suffered an unprecedented drought so severe that it dried up the reserve’s streams. In 2016, fires spread into the reserve, damaging important habitat. Reserve staff report that they saw bristlefronts after the fires, but additional searches in 2017 failed to detect the birds within or near the reserve.

 

“Although we are relieved that the Stresemann’s Bristlefront continues to survive, the species’ future remains precarious,” said Amy Upgren, Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) Program Officer at ABC. “Much more work needs to be done to locate additional individuals and protect additional habitat.”

 

“Conservationists have recovered a number of bird species from tiny populations, including the Seychelles Magpie-Robin, Whooping Crane, and Lear’s Macaw. We are hopeful that if we can find more birds and take significant action quickly, this bristlefront population can also grow,” said Gláucia Drummond, Executive Director of Fundação Biodiversitas.

 

“ABC and our partners across the hemisphere are working hard to conserve this and other bird species on the brink of extinction, and to make sure other species don’t decline to such dangerously low population levels,” said Daniel Lebbin, ABC Vice President of Threatened Species.  

 

Searches are continuing in hopes of locating other bristlefronts, including the female’s mate. ABC and partners are also creating an emergency action plan to protect more habitat. To support these efforts, please contact Amy Upgren.

 

Work to conserve this area and species is supported by a Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project, in partnership with UN Environment and BirdLife International, as well as David and Patricia Davidson.

 

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American Bird Conservancyis a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

Fundação Biodiversitas' mission is the conservation of Brazilian biodiversity. A nongovernmental organization based in Belo Horizonte, Biodiversitas has promoted science-based conservation in Brazil since 1989 and acts as a reference center for the collection and application of scientific knowledge.

 

 

Fiserv Forum uses glass visible to birds, minimizes disorienting light

 

Contact: Bryan Lenz, American Bird Conservancy Bird Collisions Campaign Manager, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Barry Baum, Fiserv Forum Senior Vice President of Communications, 414-908-3781 (office), 917-847-1737 (cell), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Fiserv Forum was built with windows that deter bird collisions. Credit: Milwaukee Bucks/Kenny Yoo

 

(Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 24, 2018) – The Milwaukee Bucks have achieved a first with their new arena: Fiserv Forum will be the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment arena, upon completion of the Bucks’ application for LEED Silver® certification.

 

This is a significant victory for bird conservation because up to 1 billion birds die annually after colliding with glass in the United States. Scientists estimate that this staggering total likely accounts for 5 to 10 percent of the birds in the United States and contributes to ongoing declines in bird populations across North America.

 

Addressing collisions is vitally important not only because of the inherent value of birds, but also because birds reduce pest populations, pollinate plants, disperse seeds, provide other natural services, and captivate tens of millions of Americans with their beauty and fascinating behavior.

 

“The Milwaukee Bucks’ bold decision to build the world’s first bird-friendly arena speaks volumes about the ownership’s character, concern for the environment, and desire to be a part of a green community,” said Bird City Wisconsin’s former director Bryan Lenz, who recently joined the staff of American Bird Conservancy (ABC) as its Collisions Campaign Manager. “The Bucks stepped up for birds in a way that no sports franchise ever has. Hopefully the team’s message, that designing with birds in mind is an achievable goal, will set Fiserv Forum up as a model for arenas, stadiums, and all other buildings for years to come.”

 

The 17,500-seat Fiserv Forum is located in the heart of Milwaukee, which is a Bird City Wisconsin community. The arena was designed to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program (LEED) Bird Collision Deterrence credit (SSpc55), which was created in partnership with ABC. Credit SSpc55 has already been approved on the pending LEED application for Fiserv Forum.

 

“Bird City Wisconsin came to us three years ago to educate us on migration and best practices,” said Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin. “We were able to integrate many of their suggestions in the design phase of the project.”

 

The American Robin is Wisconsin’s state bird and a member of the thrush family. Thrushes, like Wood Thrush and Swainson’s Thrush, are frequent victims of glass collisions. Photo by Michael Stubblefield

Buildings that achieve the Bird Collision Deterrence credit address the primary reasons that birds collide with buildings: reflective and see-through glass and lighting that disorients birds during their nocturnal spring and fall migrations. Wisconsin Humane Society will also work with the Bucks to monitor Fiserv Forum for collisions, following a plan designed in partnership with Bird City Wisconsin and ABC.

 

“When glass or other glass-like materials are employed in venue design, it’s vital to balance insulation and reflectivity to create an ideal environment both inside and out, for people and for local wildlife,” said Heather Stewart, Senior Associate at Populous, the architectural design firm used for Fiserv Forum. “We are proud to hear that other sports venues are looking toward Fiserv Forum as the new standard for bird-friendly design around the globe.” 

 

Bird City Wisconsin first approached the Bucks about a bird-friendly arena in mid-2015. This community conservation organization, a program of Milwaukee Audubon Society, recognizes communities for bird-focused conservation and education actions that help create a healthy environment both for birds and people. Bird City Wisconsin works tirelessly to help the 109 Bird City communities across Wisconsin do all they can to further bird conservation.

 

A number of organizations played critical roles in the construction of the world’s first bird-friendly arena, including Bucks’ leadership, Populous, CAA ICON, Bird City Wisconsin, ABC, Eppstein Uhen, Mortenson, M-E Engineers, France Sustainable Solutions, and HNTB. All of the partners finished the design process with newfound knowledge on how to build and operate buildings with birds in mind knowledge that they will carry to future projects.

 

“So many sports teams use animals and birds as mascots; this approach just makes perfect sense for them,” said Michael Parr, President of ABC. “Surely no sports teams want to kill wild birds at their facilities. The Bucks are showing the way. I am betting some good karma will head their way for this in coming seasons!”

 

Fiserv Forum is registered with the certification goal of LEED Silver® and includes many other efforts that demonstrate that Bucks’ ownership is serious about reducing the team’s environmental footprint. Among these are landscaping with native plants, operations that avoid use of straws and other petroleum products, a composting program, and low-flow toilets. Fiserv Forum was also built using high-recycled content, regionally sourced materials, and low-emission products that help provide healthy indoor air quality for staff and guests.  

 

During the upcoming season, the Bucks will provide online information about their LEED/Green Initiatives and offer LEED/Green tours of Fiserv Forum.

 

“The Milwaukee Bucks have demonstrated outstanding conservation leadership and shown that it is possible to build a world-class facility with birds in mind,” Lenz said. “We hope that their example will inspire others to take action.”

 

ABC is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas, with an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership. One of ABC’s main goals is to eliminate threats to birds, including collisions with buildings and other infrastructure. ABC has contributed to making facilities safer for birds nationwide, from partnering to develop the Bird Collision Deterrence LEED credit to working on the Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act that has been introduced in both the House (H.R. 2542) and Senate (S. 1920) in the U.S. Congress. ABC has also helped individual organizations, such as Northwestern University and Key West International Airport, make their buildings safe for birds.

 

Collisions at homes and low-rise buildings combined account for the majority of U.S. bird-glass collisions — and they can be prevented. To learn how you can apply attractive, inexpensive treatments to your windows to reduce the threat that they pose to birds, visit www.birdsmartglass.org.

 

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About American Bird Conservancy

American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds).

 

About Bird City Wisconsin

Bird City Wisconsin, a program of Milwaukee Audubon Society, recognizes Wisconsin municipalities for the conservation and education activities that make their communities healthy for both birds and people. Bird City also offers High Flyer recognition for communities that go above and beyond in their conservation and education programs. To date, 109 communities have been recognized as Bird Cities, while 23 communities have qualified for High Flyer status. Find us at birdcitywisconsin.org and on Facebook.

 

About Fiserv Forum

Fiserv Forum is a preeminent sports and entertainment arena in downtown Milwaukee that opened on Aug. 26, 2018. Designed by Populous, Eppstein Uhen Architects, and HNTB, the venue offers incomparable sightlines, customer service, technology, and amenities. Fiserv Forum includes 17,500 seats for basketball and up to 18,000 for concerts, with 34 luxury suites and three clubs. The new venue hosts a diverse variety of events, including the Milwaukee Bucks, Marquette University men’s basketball, major concerts, family shows, and other sports and entertainment events. Founding Partners for Fiserv Forum include BMO Harris Bank, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, Johnson Controls, and Miller Brewing Company.

 

For more information on Fiserv Forum, please visit: fiservforum.com.

 

 

 

More than 100 miles of risky powerlines marked to prevent collisions


Whooping Crane family. The work to reduce the threat of colliding with powerlines is taking place in Kansas around the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms — important stopover areas between the species’ wintering and breeding grounds.  Photo by Richard Seeley/Shutterstock

(Washington, D.C., August 23, 2018) Endangered Whooping Cranes are safer during their twice-yearly migratory journeys, thanks to years of effort by Kansas utility companies to identify and mark powerlines that pose the greatest risk to the birds. Although rare, collision with powerlines is the greatest known source of mortality for fledged Whooping Cranes.

“Whooping Cranes number only about 750 in the world, including more than 500 that migrate between Aransas Wildlife Refuge in Texas and their Canadian breeding grounds,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy at American Bird Conservancy. “We’re grateful for the work by Westar Energy and other companies who are helping to make the Whooping Crane’s long-distance journey safer and more likely to succeed.”

The work to reduce the threat of colliding with powerlines is taking place in Kansas around the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms — important stopover areas between the species’ wintering and breeding grounds. These sites provide essential habitat allowing the birds to rest and refuel before continuing the 2,500-mile journey.

The Kansas Electric Utility Whooping Crane Conservation Plan and associated Advisory Group was formed in 2013 in response to line-marking guidance released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010. Members of the Advisory Group include the Kansas Electric Power Cooperative; Kansas Biological Survey; Midwest Energy; Westar Energy; Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Kansas Ornithological Society; The Nature Conservancy; Sunflower Electric Power Corp.; and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (advisory). 

Participating Kansas electrical utilities aimed to pool financial resources and collaborate to make the highest-risk lines safer for cranes, regardless of which company owned and operated the lines. All powerlines within 5 miles of Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira were assessed for marking based on the surrounding landscape and documented habitat selection criteria often used by Whooping Cranes.

(See sample map of powerline priority marking areas, below.)

Using guidelines developed by the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee, various marker designs have been used in this effort. While most markers can be installed by hand, some require the use of helicopters to install these markers on transmission lines that are not accessible from the ground due to height and safety reasons.

“Since 2015, 160 miles of ‘high-priority’ lines designated at Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira have been marked,” said Eric Johnson, Biology Coordinator for Westar Energy. “By the end of 2019 all 113 miles of high-priority lines at Cheyenne Bottoms will be completed and 90 miles out of 130 will be marked at Quivira.”

"It has been very exciting to see how industry, regulators, and organizations come together to identify high priority areas that can then be addressed with line marking to help protect not only Whooping Cranes, but so many other species that can be at risk from line collisions," said Chuck Otte, Kansas Ornithological Society and member of the Advisory Group.

In addition, an American Bird Conservancy and International Crane Foundation Whooping Crane mapping study provided additional data, analyzing the distribution of wind turbines and associated powerlines and towers near stopover sites in the crane’s migratory corridor. These intersections with powerlines will be reviewed by the companies for inclusion in line-marking efforts in the future.


Map: Powerline Priority Marking Areas for Cheyenne Bottoms

(Map for Quivira available on our website.)

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter(@abcbirds1).

The Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) leads the electric utility industry in protecting avian resources while enhancing reliable energy delivery. 

KCP&L and Westar Energy: Serving approximately 1.5 million customers in Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light Company (KCP&L), KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations Company, and Westar Energy are the electric utilities of Evergy, Inc. (NYSE: EVRG). Together we generate nearly half the power we provide to homes and businesses with emission-free sources. We support our local communities where we live and work, and strive to meet the needs of customers through energy savings and innovative solutions.

 

Blue-throated Macaw numbers only about 300 in the wild – but it’s hoped that the population will increase through acquisition of the new reserve and ongoing nest box program. Photo by Daniel Alarcon. //www.flickr.com/photos/128583429@N05/sets/72157691397221540">Additional photos are available of Blue-throated Macaw, the reserve, and nest boxes.

(Washington, D.C., August 20, 2018) The largest known group of nesting Blue-throated Macaws — a Critically Endangered species numbering only about 300 in the wild, all in Bolivia — is now a protected nature reserve, thanks to a land purchase made by Bolivian conservation organization Asociación Armonía with support from American Bird Conservancy, the International Conservation Fund of Canada, IUCN Netherlands, and World Land Trust.

The 1,680-acre (680-hectare) reserve is located in central Bolivia in the Beni savanna. Previously a cattle ranch, it is the site of Armonía’s ongoing artificial nest box program, launched in 2005 to boost the macaw’s population. Demonstrating the potential for this area to support the recovery of the species, 51 Blue-throated Macaws have since fledged from the reserve, and in 2017, a pair of macaws that fledged from the nest boxes returned to breed.

The Blue-throated Macaw has been declining in population for the last century. Habitat destruction is a key driver of this decline, including the removal and burning of large trees suitable for nesting, while capture of the birds for the international pet trade has also played a role.

The new reserve, together with Armonía’s existing Barba Azul Nature Reserve, establishes a total area of protected land for the Blue-throated Macaw of 28,862 acres (11,680 hectares).

“Increasing the Blue-throated Macaw population is more likely now that Armonía has secured this important site as a reserve,” said Rodrigo Soria, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía. “This acquisition means that we can continue the successful nest box program without worry of changing land ownership and management.”

Armonía has named the new reserve the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve in tribute to Laney Rickman (1952 – 2017), founder of the Texas-based nonprofit Bird Endowment. Rickman expanded and supported the macaw nest box program since 2006 in partnership with Asociación Armonía as an annual campaign, Nido Adoptivo™, to raise funds to build and deploy the boxes.

To further honor Laney Rickman’s legacy, the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Fund has been established by her family, Asociación Armonía, and American Bird Conservancy. Donations are welcome and will provide vital long-term support for the nest box program as well as habitat conservation and reserve management. Donations received in 2018 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $100,000.

American Bird Conservancy is grateful for the generous support of the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, the March Conservation Fund, the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory-Tropical Forest Forever Fund, David and Patricia Davidson, and an anonymous donor, who helped make the purchase of this new reserve possible.

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).

Asociación Armonía (www.armonia-bo.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of birds and their natural habitat in Bolivia. Armonía’s conservation actions are based on scientific studies and active involvement of local communities, respecting their culture and knowledge. Asociación Armonía is the Bolivian key partner of American Bird Conservancy, BirdLife International, ICFC, and World Land Trust.

International Conservation Fund of Canada (http://icfcanada.org) advances the long-term preservation of nature and biodiversity in the tropics and other priority areas worldwide.

IUCN Netherlands (https://www.iucn.nl) is the Dutch national committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. Our mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

The World Land Trust (https://www.worldlandtrust.org) is an international conservation charity that protects the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats acre by acre. Through a network of partner organizations around the world, WLT funds the creation of reserves and provides permanent protection for habitats and wildlife. Partnerships are developed with established and highly respected local organizations who engage support and commitment among the local community.

 

(Washington, D.C., July 19, 2018) The U.S. Department of the Interior is proposing new rules to implement for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that will make it more difficult to recover Threatened and Endangered birds.

“These rules put species listed as ‘Threatened,’ rather than the more dire category of ‘Endangered,’ at greater risk of endangerment by eliminating the blanket protection known as the 4d rule,” said Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy. “Under these changes, birds newly listed as Threatened could legally be killed or harmed. The changes would also make it more difficult to list species that the best science indicates should be listed, and to conserve and restore habitat, due to the weakening of Sec. 7 consultation for management of federal lands.

“Several bird species listed as Threatened under the ESA — the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl in particular — likely owe their current existence to the ESA’s blanket 4d rule against take and the interagency cooperation mandated by Sec. 7,” continued Holmer.

One of the proposed changes is to adopt the 4d rule process currently used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for marine species. Instead of providing blanket protection for species newly listed as Threatened, NOAA puts 4d rules in place as threats arise, leading to delays in conservation action.

For example, because the Hawaiian monk seal is listed as Endangered, NOAA is addressing the emerging threat of the disease toxoplasmosis on the seal. “If the monk seal were listed as a Threatened species instead of Endangered under the ESA, it would require additional protection from toxoplasmosis in the form of new 4-d rule,” said Holmer. “The overall effect could be substantially delayed protection and an increased risk of further population losses.”

Seventy-eight percent of mainland birds listed as Threatened or Endangered under the ESA have populations that are now stable, increasing, or have recovered enough to be delisted, according to a 2016 report published by American Bird Conservancy. The Endangered Species Act: A Record of Success analyzed population trends and recovery success for all U.S. listed birds, including those in the Hawaiian Islands and U.S. territories where the recovery success rate is lower due to the high number of threats.

“Added funding could help continue the upward trend of 41 listed U.S. bird populations and make their eventual recovery possible,” said Holmer. “Black-capped Vireo was recently delisted, and Kirtland’s Warbler and Nene (Hawaiian Goose) are on their way toward delisting due to successful conservation. We are supportive of these delistings provided that adequate conservation measures are assured moving forward.”

A proposed definition change to the ESA would make it easier to eliminate critical habitat, because any loss would have to be considered “as a whole.”

“Critical habitat is essential for maintaining and recovering species, but this change would allow the loss of habitat to occur drip by drip,” Holmer said. “Eventually there could be little critical habitat left.”

Another change could undermine the listing process by allowing for misleading economic analysis to be included in the listing rule, potentially inviting political interference. The benefits of wildlife conservation, which provide billions of dollars to the economy, are undervalued or not even included in these analyses.

“Maintaining the existing science-based listing process is crucial to conserve declining bird populations,” said Holmer. “Just this decade, seven new populations of birds were listed. If slanted economic analysis were included, it is likely that some of these species — such as the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red Knot, and Gunnison Sage-Grouse — may not have been granted ESA protection due to political interference. American Bird Conservancy is urging that the existing science-based listing process be retained.”

A 60-day comment period has been set for these proposed changes. Submit comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo: Changes to the ESA may reduce protections for birds such as Red Knots. Photo by Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).

 

(Washington, D.C., June 27, 2018) Nearly 100 years ago, on July 3, 1918, the United States enacted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to protect migratory birds. Passed in the nick of time, the Act helped restore populations of many birds, ranging from herons and egrets to shorebirds and waterfowl. The original Act was a means of implementing a 1916 treaty between the U.S. and Canada intended to ensure the preservation of migratory bird species.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act — now under unprecedented threat — has played an essential role in the restoration of bird populations across the country, from herons and egrets to shorebirds and waterfowl. Photo of Great Blue Herons by FloridaStock/Shutterstock

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been a remarkable success,” said Mike Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy. “The Act's authors responded to migratory bird declines by focusing on the threats of the early 20th century, and they would have been proud to see how the Act has been used to protect birds from modern threats.

“By keeping the Migratory Bird Treaty Act strong, we can build on that conservation success. We can avoid preventable deaths caused by human influences such as industrial development and misuse of pesticides — and ensure that future generations of Americans enjoy the same wondrous spectacle of migratory birds we do today.”

 
At 100, Successful Law is Under Attack

In a legal opinion issued December 2017, the Administration abruptly reversed decades of government policy and practice — by both Democratic and Republican administrations — on the implementation and enforcement of the MBTA. The Act's prohibition on the killing or "taking" of migratory birds has long been understood to extend to “incidental take” — meaning unintentional, but predictable and avoidable killing from threats such as oil pits that trap birds, and tall towers and power lines responsible for many bird collisions. Under the Administration's revised interpretation, the MBTA's protections will apply only to activities that purposefully kill birds. Any incidental take — no matter how inevitable, avoidable, or devastating its impact on birds — is now immune from enforcement under the law.

A coalition of national environmental groups, including American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, has filed litigation, challenging the Administration's move to eliminate these longstanding protections.

Opposition against the weakening of the Act is also mounting in Congress. Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources are holding a roundtable discussion today to discuss potential next steps to counter the Administration and to discuss the benefits of creating an incidental take permitting system.

In addition, all 10 Democratic members of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, calling on him to keep enforcing the MBTA, cited as the country's most important bird conservation law.

“We strongly urge you to reconsider this opinion and to cease any corresponding efforts to change agency rules or guidance under the MBTA,” the Senators wrote in their letter to Sec. Zinke. “Instead, we ask that you continue to enforce this foundational bird conservation law as every administration from across the political spectrum has done for more than 40 years.”

In their letter, the Senators call attention to the 100-year history of the MBTA and why it remains essential. “For the 1,000 species of birds protected by the MBTA, the menace of market hunting and the plume trade have since disappeared, but the threats to birds have not,” they wrote. “The rapid industrialization of the country in the 20th century created new threats, as millions of waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds began to die tragic deaths after being trapped in oil pits, electrocuted on power lines, and more.”

ABC and a coalition of more than 500 conservation groups have called on Congress to defend the Act. And, in a remarkable show of support for keeping the MBTA strong, 17 high-ranking officials from previous Republican and Democratic administrations sent a letter to Sec. Zinke opposing the change. "This legal opinion is contrary to the long-standing interpretation by every administration (Republican and Democrat) since at least the 1970s, who held that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act strictly prohibits the unregulated killing of birds," they wrote.

The bipartisan group of signers includes several former Deputy Secretaries of Interior and several former directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They agreed on the effectiveness of the MBTA, stating, "The Migratory Bird Treaty Act can and has been successfully used to reduce gross negligence by companies that simply do not recognize the value of birds to society or the practical means to minimize harm.”

MBTA Needed Now to Reverse Population Declines
 

Sensitive to climate change and habitat loss, birds are among our best indicators of how ecosystems have been altered and how well we are doing at mitigating these changes. The news is not good: In the State of North America's Birds 2016 report — an unprecedented trilateral analysis of how our birds are faring across the United States, Canada, and Mexico — data revealed that many of our bird species are disappearing, hastened along by habitat destruction, climate change, pesticides, and invasive species, among other factors. Today, fully one-third of all North American bird species, including seabirds, shorebirds, and grassland songbirds, urgently need conservation action.

“Migratory birds are more valuable than many realize,” Holmer said. “While birds have inherent value, they are also an economic driver, with U.S. bird enthusiasts spending billions of dollars on wildlife-watching equipment, backyard birding supplies, and birding tourism. Even more important, birds contribute to the biodiversity necessary to the health of our planet. They provide essential services to people, from natural control of insect pests to seed dispersal and pollination of our crops.

“Beyond their ecological significance, birds also connect us to our environment and nature in a positive feedback loop needed for human well-being, especially at a time when many people have too few chances to connect with wildlife and the outdoors,” Holmer continued. “Birds exist all around us, easily found right in our own backyards and parks. They uplift our spirits every day with their beauty and song.”

Protecting Birds from Needless Deaths
 

The risk of liability under the MBTA has long provided the oil and gas industry, wind energy development companies, and power transmission line operators with an incentive to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to minimize bird deaths. For example, in an effort to protect migratory birds and bats and avoid potential MBTA liability, the wind energy industry, conservation groups, and the Service worked to develop comprehensive guidelines aimed at ensuring best practices for siting and developing wind projects. The Administration's new policy eliminates this incentive for industries and individuals to minimize and mitigate foreseeable impacts of their activities on migratory birds, putting already-declining populations of our nation's songbirds and other migratory birds at risk.

"Some companies put strong conservation practices in place without needing legal incentives,” said Holmer. “But having the law in place encourages all companies to do the right thing. These changes to the MBTA would take the teeth out of the only law that protects the vast majority of our native birds."

Millions of birds are killed by preventable industrial causes each year. Hundreds of thousands are killed by wind turbines — a number that continues to grow. Millions more perish at associated power lines and towers.

“Because of the MBTA, we have seen steady progress toward reducing sources of bird mortality,” Holmer added. “Best management practices, like covering oil pits with screens, put little burden on industry but reduce the needless deaths of birds.”

In practice, enforcement of the MBTA has only occurred in a few instances when companies failed to adopt accepted industry best practices — and ignored government cautions and requests for mitigation. Only a handful of companies from across the energy sector have been prosecuted and fined, in spite of their known impacts on birds.

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).

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(Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2017) Conserving Greater Sage-Grouse requires more habitat protection, not less. That’s the message conservation groups are delivering to the administration as it considers potentially devastating revisions to the landmark 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse conservation planning initiative. The revisions, if enacted, would come at too high a cost to the sage-grouse and the remaining sagebrush habitat on public lands, sending the future of both the bird and its iconic landscape back into uncertainty.

More habitat protection is needed to conserve sage-grouse. Photo by Warren Cooke“Because of these proposed backward-looking changes and new development plans for public lands in the region, the grouse is once again at risk of extinction and in need of stronger protection,” said Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President of Policy. “The stability and certainty provided to local communities and land users by the federal management plans and other grouse conservation measures are also now at risk of being lost if these changes are put into place.”

Instead of changing direction, the federal government should live up to promises it made in 2015 to ensure sage-grouse protection — promises that formed the basis for not listing the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The coalition of conservation groups, which includes those most focused on sage-grouse protection over the past decade, are gravely concerned about the recommendation made in the Interior Department’s Sage-Grouse Report to roll back those vital protections and eliminate Sagebrush Focal Areas.

“We oppose the administration's plan to roll back these protections, and also oppose efforts to reduce sage-grouse habitat by further reducing protected habitats, reversing adaptive management that occurs when habitat or population triggers are tripped, or eliminating general habitat management areas in Utah,” said Rebecca Fischer of WildEarth Guardians. “It's also appalling that the planning effort is occurring on a state-by-state basis. This ignores the need to consider the species’ needs at a range-wide scale and will result in the failure to apply strong and consistent protections.”

The Greater Sage-Grouse has become a wildly popular and iconic symbol of the American West and its wide-open sagebrush basins. Year after year, sage-grouse gather in the spring at small arenas in the sagebrush called leks to dance, display, and mate. Their mating dance is one of the great natural spectacles of the West.

“The protections which the administration appears ready to eviscerate are essential, not just for sage-grouse but for a broad diversity of wildlife and the health of public lands in the West,” said Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project. “Sagebrush Focal Areas are the only habitats where the land-use plans even come close to the protections recommended by scientific experts, so at minimum all of the priority habitats should receive this level of protection.”

The groups are urging Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to adopt the scientific recommendations of the Bureau of Land Management’s own science team on sage-grouse. Those recommendations include refraining from fluid-mineral leasing in priority habitats, buffering leks by four miles to prevent any impacts from known disturbances, ensuring that all grazing allotments are meeting science-based standards for sagebrush habitat integrity, ceasing vegetation treatments that degrade sagebrush habitat, preserving winter habitats, limiting disturbances to one per section and 3 percent of each square mile of priority habitat, and withdrawing sagebrush habitats from mining. The agencies’ analysis should preserve priority habitats through a network of areas of critical environmental concern and zoological areas managed to protect sage-grouse, according to the groups.

John Fitzpatrick, Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said: “This ill-timed revision of federal sage-grouse management plans, before they have had a chance to work, runs counter to the best available science.”

Instead of balancing development with conservation, the administration has adopted a policy of “energy dominance,” prioritizing fossil fuel development over other uses on western public lands.

“This attack on sage-grouse conservation is part of a larger trend of plundering public lands and resources,” said Michael Saul of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Secretary Zinke’s proposed gutting of the sage-grouse plans reads like an oil and gas industry wish list, and is a recipe for accelerating the decline of Greater Sage-Grouse across the West.”

Photo of Greater Sage-Grouse by Warren Cooke

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.

Western Watersheds Project works to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives, and legal advocacy. WWP works to influence and improve public lands management throughout the West with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands.

WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West. Guardians has worked for years and continues to work to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse and the Sagebrush Sea so that future generations might continue to enjoy this spectacular species.

 

U.S. Senate to Consider Issue for the First Time

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Director of Public Relations, 202-888-7472

(Washington, D.C., Oct. 6, 2017) The U.S. Senate will have an opportunity to act to make all new federal buildings safer for birds. This week, Sen. Cory A. Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act (S. 1920) — the first time such a bill has been proposed in the Senate. A version of the legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).

https://abcbirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Wood-Thrush_Ryan-Sanderson_U_PR.jpgAmerican Bird Conservancy (ABC) thanks Sen. Booker and Reps. Quigley and Griffith for encouraging the federal government to lead by example in addressing one of the biggest human-caused threats to birds. As many as a billion birds a year are killed in the United States when they collide with glass on all kind of structures, from skyscrapers and office buildings to homes and bus shelters.

Many existing federal buildings already feature bird-friendly design. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill call for the General Services Administration to require new federal buildings to incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features.

“While this legislation is limited to federal buildings, it’s a very good start that could lead to more widespread applications of bird-friendly designs elsewhere,” said Christine Sheppard, Director of ABC’s Glass Collisions Program.

“Now is the time to proactively avoid continued impacts to bird populations from building strikes, which only compounds losses from other threats such as habitat loss and climate change,” said Eric Stiles, President and Chief Executive Officer of New Jersey Audubon. “We applaud Cory Booker for introducing the Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act.”

Many species of birds fall victim to collisions. The species most commonly reported as building kills in the United States include White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Ovenbird, and Song Sparrow. Several other species of national conservation concern suffer disproportionate casualties, including Painted Bunting, Canada Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Canada Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and Wood Thrush. Learn more about bird collisions and bird-friendly building design here.

(Photo: Wood Thrush by Ryan Sanderson)

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

 

Dangerous Pesticides Kill Wildlife, Harm Unique Ecosystems

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Director of Pesticides Science and Regulation, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7475, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Staff Attorney, Earthjustice, 415-217-2000

(Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2017) On behalf of American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice has petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to adopt a statewide prohibition on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the more than one million acres of wildlife habitat under its jurisdiction. “We need to be sure that these lands remain safe havens for birds and other wildlife,” said Cynthia Palmer, ABC’s Director of Pesticides Science and Regulation.

Neonics are a relatively new class of chemicals with the potential to derail California’s efforts to safeguard its unique ecosystems. Neonics are deadly to pollinators and other wildlife, including birds. For example, a single seed coated with neonics is enough to kill a songbird, and exposure to just one-tenth of a coated seed per day during the egg-laying season is enough to impair reproduction. Even tiny doses can cause birds to lose coordination and the ability to fly. Neonics are also lethal to many of the terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates — including butterflies, bees, earthworms, and mayflies — that are critical food sources for birds and other wildlife.

“What’s so stunning about these pesticides,” said Palmer, “is the fact that they can actually exacerbate the pest problems they were meant to solve. By harming pollinators like bees and butterflies, as well as natural pest control agents like birds and beneficial insects, neonics are sabotaging the very organisms on which we all depend.”

Europe has enacted a moratorium on the use of neonics, and Canada has proposed a nationwide ban on the most widely used neonic, imidacloprid, given the risk it poses to birds, insects, small mammals, and other wildlife. In addition, many U.S. companies such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, True Value, and BJ’s Wholesale Club, as well as state and local legislatures, are reining in the use of neonics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned neonic use on National Wildlife Refuge lands as of last year.

“We hope that the California Fish and Game Commission will follow the lead of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and prohibit any use of neonicotinoid pesticides on the important network of wildlife refuges it oversees throughout California, one of the nation’s most biodiverse states,” said Trent Orr, the Earthjustice staff attorney who worked on the petition.

“It’s time for the agencies managing state refuges across the nation to join in protecting our endangered species and other wildlife from these poisons,” Palmer stated. “California has long been an environmental standard-bearer for the other states on everything from auto emissions to building codes. We urge the California Fish and Game Commission to lead the way on pesticides, as well, by adopting a statewide prohibition on neonicotinoid insecticides.”

(Photo: Banning the use of neonics on Califonia's public lands would benefit songbirds such as Horned Lark and many other species. Photo by Tom Grey)

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

 

Non-native Predators Caught on Cameras in Wildlife Refuge

 

 

(Washington, D.C., August  17, 2017) Endangered ‘Alae ‘Ula(Hawaiian Common Gallinule, a subspecies of Common Gallinule formerly called Hawaiian Common Moorhen) are among the latest documented victims of feral cat predation on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i. The pair of breeding adults was attacked and killed while sitting on their nest in a national wildlife refuge in late April. With no adults left to tend the nest, the birds’ remaining three eggs and two hatchlings did not survive. The incubating parents of two more nests were killed by the same feral cat on April 22 and May 19, and six more eggs subsequently failed to hatch. The feral cat is still at large.

The attacks were captured on remote cameras installed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in partnership with American Bird Conservancy (ABC). This predation by cats on endangered birds represents a major setback for conservation efforts and is a harsh reminder of the dangers feral cats and other invasive animals create for Hawai‘i's native species.

“Feral cats, whether they are dumped on the wildlife refuge by irresponsible owners or they find their way onto the refuge from nearby feral cat feeding stations, are having a very significant and tragic impact on Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge's endangered birds,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Project Leader Michael Mitchell. “Throughout Kaua‘i, natural resource managers are doing everything they can to save our native birds. But some species are running out of time, and extinction is forever.”

The recent attacks are among the latest in a long line of killings of endangered Hawaiian birds by feral cats, a non-native species. Unpublished data collected by FWS employees have documented at least 252 suspected cat kills of Hawaiian Common Gallinules, ‘Alae Ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian Coots), Ae‘o (Hawaiian Stilts), Koloa Maoli (Hawaiian Ducks), and Kōlea(Pacific Golden-Plover) in Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge between 2012 and 2014. Seabirds are similarly at risk, especially while in the nest. Feral cats were suspected in the deaths of 22 Laysan Albatross chicksduring a 3-week period in 2015. Recently, a feral cat was caught on camera killing and dragging an endangered ‘Ua‘u (Hawaiian Petrel) out of its nest by the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (KESRP), an incident that is unfortunately recorded with regularity in remote seabird colonies on the island.

According to KESRP Coordinator Dr. André Raine, “Feral cats are one of the worst of the introduced predators on the island of Kaua‘i — they are widespread throughout the island, are highly adept predators, are capable of killing large numbers of birds in a very short period of time, and regularly kill breeding adult birds, which makes their long-term impact on a breeding population even more devastating.”

“The continued losses of Kaua‘i's unique and endangered birds to cat predation are unsustainable,” said Grant Sizemore, ABC's Director of Invasive Species Programs. “With even wildlife refuges no longer safe from cats, the time has come to pass a comprehensive cat ordinance — such as that recommended by Kaua‘i's Feral Cat Task Force — to encourage the responsible care of pets and safekeeping of wildlife.”

The task force, which included stakeholders from animal welfare, conservation, and community members, submitted its recommendations to the County Council in March 2014. Those recommendations include setting a goal of “zero feral, abandoned, or stray cats” and implementing practical solutions such as sterilization and confinement as key strategies for addressing the cat, wildlife, and human health concerns associated with free-roaming cats. Those concerns include toxoplasmosis, an infectious parasitic disease that may be spread to humans and wildlife through cat feces and which has been linked to deaths in endangered Nēnē (Hawaiian Goose) and Hawaiian monk seals. A report prepared for the Hawai‘i Department of Health in 2000 suggested that feral cats are the “highest collective risk factor [for toxoplasmosis] and require further attention and action from a ‘holistic public health perspective.’”

Top photo: Hawaiian Common Gallinule and chicks. Photo by Hob Osterlund.

Bottom photo: Remote camera image of feral cat preying on Hawaiian Common Gallinule nest, April 22, 2017. Cameras were installed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with ABC and are run by B. Webber.

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

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