Displaying items by tag: migratory birds

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August 29, 2020

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Partnership Aims to Turn the Tide for Migratory Birds

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Jennifer Howard, Director of Public Relations, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7472

(Washington, D.C., March 13, 2017) Two leading bird conservation groups, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, have launched “Science to Action,” a partnership aimed at reversing decades of population declines for migratory birds in the Americas. Bringing together the Cornell Lab’s cutting-edge science and ABC’s on-the-ground approach to bird conservation, this joint effort represents new hope for hundreds of declining species that journey each spring and fall between their breeding grounds in North America and wintering grounds in Latin America and the Caribbean.

ABC and the Cornell Lab are combining their strengths at a critical moment for migratory birds. Landmark conservation measures such as the Endangered Species Act are being targeted for elimination even as environmental threats mount. As the most recent State of North America's Birds report makes starkly clear, fully one-third of our continent's bird species will require concerted conservation efforts to ensure their future.

The ABC-Cornell Lab partnership will focus on how new data and conservation tools can be harnessed to enhance conservation of migratory birds across their breeding and wintering grounds, as well as stopover sites in between.

“The Cornell Lab’s dedicated science team and its depth of citizen-science data make it a perfect fit for informing better conservation decision-making by ABC,” said George Fenwick, President of ABC.

“The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy share common values and complementary expertise for protecting wild bird populations across the Western Hemisphere,” said John W. Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of Cornell Lab. “With so many bird species showing alarming declines, it is more important than ever that the Lab work closely with ABC, combining our scientific focus and citizen-science data with ABC’s effective conservation actions.”

Kenneth V. Rosenberg, Applied Conservation Scientist at the Cornell Lab, is leading the new partnership. “Our two organizations will provide a unified voice for bird conservation, applying the best science on the ground at important natural areas and informing policies that affect the future of bird populations,” he said.

Together the partners will:

  • Leverage data and resources from the Cornell Lab to refine and prioritize ABC’s conservation strategies, including ABC BirdScapes—landscape-scale areas critically important to targeted bird species. Such data are key to answering the “Where and when?” questions that drive ABC’s conservation planning.
  • Identify and develop conservation strategies for key migratory stopovers. Researchers are learning that the success of migration may hinge on just two or three stopovers located strategically along the migration route for each species. One chief goal of the partnership is determining how we can best conserve these stopover sites.
  • Use citizen-science data from eBird to help monitor and evaluate the success of ABC reserves and projects—the “Did it work?” piece of ABC’s conservation efforts.
  • Provide science support for Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, and leadership for conservation alliances such as Partners in Flight and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s State of the Birds reports.

(Photo: ABC and the Cornell Lab will work together to identify and protect habitats that sustain migration for some of North America's most-loved species, including Blackburnian Warbler.)


American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Its hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning bout birds and protecting the planet. The Cornell Lab is a nonprofit organization whose mission is supported by friends, members, and more than 400,000 citizen-science participants.

Bird Conservation Group Calls for Changes in Collection of Data at Wind Developments


(Washington, D.C., March 6, 2015) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to institute a new system of pre-construction risk assessment and bird and bat mortality data collection in connection with hundreds of thousands of bird (and bat) deaths being caused by wind turbines and the likelihood that that number could substantially exceed one million deaths when the industry reaches its full build out capacity by 2030 or before.

The ABC proposal was made in a letter to Department of Interior and FWS pursuant to their request for comments on information collection in connection with their land-based wind energy guidelines. It follows the entering of a guilty plea on January 6 from PacifiCorp that will require the company to pay $2.5 million in fines, restitution and community service for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act by killing 38 Golden Eagles and 336 other birds at two Wyoming wind farms.

ABC is asking FWS to institute a pre-construction risk assessment and bird mortality data collection that are based on:

  1. studies conducted by independent, qualified experts selected by the FWS or a trusted consulting company hired by FWS;
  2. costs being borne by wind energy companies;
  3. all reports sent directly to the FWS, and not through the wind energy company, which would then have no opportunity to edit or alter the reports to their advantage;
  4. reports being made available to the public to add an additional layer of scrutiny; and
  5. mandatory requirement to conduct independent Environmental Assessments (EA) and obtain incidental take permits under the Endangered Species Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act when protected species are present.

The ABC letter commended the FWS for formally recognizing, in their comment solicitation, that there may be serious problems with their current voluntary system of siting and operational guidelines for the wind industry, which is based largely on self-reporting.  The solicitation said that: “We are currently in the process of evaluating the efficacy and use of the Guidelines and the Service is considering regulatory options. Based on feedback from the wind energy industry and from Service staff, the Guidelines are often successful in improving communication and lead to development of wind projects that are safer for wildlife, but in other cases are not successful in preventing wind energy facilities from being constructed in areas of high risk to wildlife.”

ABC objected to the statement “often successful,” asserting that there are no data to support such a statement. ABC is calling on FWS to “trust but verify” in regard to bird mortality data collection and monitoring, citing a wide range of problems with the current system, including:

  1. industry-paid consultants that downplay the potential impact of wind energy facilities on federally-protected birds and bats during the Environmental Assessment development process;
  2. attempts by the wind industry to site wind energy in highly sensitive areas for birds (e.g., Mill Creek in Missouri, Camp Perry in Ohio, Apple Blossom in Michigan, etc.);
  3. industry-paid consultants who collect data on post-construction fatalities and report unverified and potentially incorrect data to regulators;
  4. lack of fatality reporting by existing wind energy facilities; and
  5. efforts to hide bird and bat fatality data from the public. 

The ABC letter charges that “…wind energy companies should not be collecting their own fatality data, as it is a direct conflict of interest.  Industry does not share mortality data with the public and FWS contends that the data are owned by the companies.  ABC contends they only ‘own’ the data because of the system that FWS has set up, which is based entirely on self-reporting.”

ABC had additional concerns with current federal plans to have the American Wind and Wildlife Institute (AWWI) retain bird and bat mortality data. Under that plan, AWWI would sign a confidentiality agreement with wind energy companies and would not be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. “This seems like a less-than-veiled attempt to continue to keep the public and concerned NGOs in the dark,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign and author of the letter.


American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.



(Washington, DC, November 6, 2014) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has raised serious concerns about a plan by Heritage Sustainable Energy, DTE Energy, Exelon Corporation, and NextEra Energy to construct additional commercial wind turbines in Huron County, Michigan, which could eventually result in up to 900 turbines in the area. This plan is advancing despite the fact that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) radar studies show vast numbers of birds migrating through or wintering in this area.

In an October 30 letter to the FWS Regional Director, ABC charged that the proposed expanded wind development—which already includes 328 turbines—threatens a major confluence of neotropical migratory birds and raptors, including federally protected Bald and Golden Eagles.

“Many species that are threatened or endangered in the U.S. and within the state of Michigan, such as the Piping Plover, Kirtland’s Warbler, Henslow’s Sparrow, and Short-eared Owl, migrate through or inhabit this area. This triggers serious Endangered Species Act (ESA) concerns,” said ABC’s Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator, Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.

“We have reviewed the recent radar studies conducted by FWS in this area and must conclude that Huron County is not an appropriate area for wind energy development, given the potential and substantial risks it poses to federally protected birds. If this is an example of 'proper' siting of wind energy development, then we wonder what criteria are being used to make such decisions,” Hutchins said further.

“An annual spring migration of thousands of eagles, hawks, and falcons travel through this area and congregate along the Huron County shoreline,” said Monica Essenmacher, President of Port Crescent Hawk Watch, a raptor conservation group in Michigan. “We have documented this occurrence since 1992, so there is a high likelihood of major raptor mortality from continued construction of these turbines.”   The ABC letter says that in addition to ESA-protected birds, vast numbers of other migrants also move through or breed in these areas. Although there is no current provision for a federal permit to harm or kill these birds (called a “take permit”) under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), ABC suggests that the FWS should consider this option as soon as possible, so that it can be used as an additional tool for proper siting and operation of future wind energy facilities.

Under FWS’ current voluntary permitting guidelines, wind energy companies are not required to apply for incidental take permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act or the ESA when the project sits on private property. ABC asserts that this is a loophole allowing wind developers to kill federally protected birds with impunity. To remedy this, the organization is calling for independent post-construction monitoring and for the institution of a permit process that imposes fines to developers who kill more protected birds than their permit would allow.

ABC supports the development of clean, renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power, but also believes that it must be done responsibly and with minimal impact on our public trust resources, including native birds and bats and particularly threatened, endangered, and other protected species. ABC supports Bird Smart Wind Energy, which emphasizes the importance of careful siting and mitigation to prevent unintended impacts to wildlife. As this study suggests, the risk to birds and bats can be substantial, depending on the circumstances. Another study suggests even higher mortality.

Developers typically argue that they can effectively mitigate the impacts of wind development, but ABC—and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)—caution that most forms of mitigation touted by the wind industry have not yet been scientifically tested for their efficacy. ABC strongly agrees with the DOE's recent statement that “…technologies to minimize impacts at operational facilities for most species are either in early stages of development or simply do not exist.”

Regarding the Huron County wind energy expansion, ABC has requested that an Environmental Impact Statement be prepared for the project and says that “… the voluntary (FWS) guidelines (must) be followed to the letter, which means consultation under Section 7 of the ESA, applications for incidental take permits under the ESA and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, a three-mile setback from any shoreline, and an Avian Protection Plan … before the companies are allowed to go ahead with any construction.”

ABC also asks that the wind energy companies share bird mortality data with the public. “At present, these data are being treated as proprietary information, but these are public trust resources being taken,” said Hutchins. “The public has a right to know.”


American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.