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A Third of U.S. Birds in Trouble

Mar 24, 2009

Someone just commented to this blog about not seeing as many whippoorwills as usual. That fits with what’s happening to about a third of the 800 species of birds in the United States that are declining, threatened or endangered.

Last week John Hoskins, Missouri Department of Conservation director, spoke alongside Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as he announced our nation’s first “State of the Birds Report.” I was in Washington, D.C., as was the director, at a meeting of fish and wildlife agencies at the time. The report certainly was discussed at the meeting, but it’s important to everyone—not just biologists.

The bad news is that loss of habitat and invasive species is taking a toll. It’s especially bad in Hawaii. The good news is that some kinds of birds, such as ducks, have shown that they can thrive if people work to ensure good places for them to live, nest and feed. The idea that "if you build it, they will come" holds true for birds as well as people. For birds, though, the "building" is creating healthy habitat. Fortunately, having clean water and healthy forests and fields is good for people as well as birds.

In Missouri, we have some big successes such as wild turkeys that were brought back from low numbers to a thriving population. But we also have just a few prairie chickens remaining where thousands once lived. It’s going to take all sorts of people—conservation agency staff, landowners, communities, nonprofit groups—to see what they can do locally for the birds where they live. At the same time, we need to work with other countries north and south of us where some “Missouri” birds live part of the year.

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