Partners In Flight Consortium Seeks Solutions To Migratory Bird Declines

Friday, August 16, 2013

Scientists who have spent decades trying to reverse the broad decline of migratory birds in the Americas will converge by the hundreds later this month in Snowbird, Utah, to seek solutions to the threats migratory birds are facing at northern breeding grounds, southern wintering grounds, and numerous migration stopovers.

The pivotal August 25–28 meeting of the bird conservation partnership, Partners in Flight (PIF), will look at progress in the struggle to conserve critical habitats, launch new conservation efforts, and form new alliances to conserve birds throughout the Americas. The meeting includes members of over 100 organizations from 16 countries across North, Central, and South America.

George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, said the coming meeting could affect the fate of several of the most rapidly declining migratory bird species found in the Western Hemisphere. “The stakes are quite high,” he said. “Many migratory birds are far less common than they were in the early 1990s, when the effort to reverse these broad declines was launched. This is true in part because the details surrounding the migration of many of these birds has been a mystery until recently—and that have made it difficult to take corrective actions.”

Mr. Fenwick says a number of new conservation measures could be launched or developed at the PIF V meeting. If they aren’t, Mr. Fenwick said, the outlook for migratory bird species will darken, such as for these five that face significant challenges to long-term survival:

  • Cerulean Warbler: A blue and white bird so dazzling that it has been called a “flying piece of sky.” It is also the most rapidly declining warbler in the Americas. Breeding bird surveys say that the number of Ceruleans fell by 70 percent from 1966 to 1996. In the Appalachian Mountains, long a breeding stronghold of the species, large amounts of prime Cerulean habitat have been destroyed or fragmented. Unfortunately, Cerulean habitat in mountain forests has been heavily logged and converted to agriculture.
  • Wood Thrush: A bird best known for what the writer Henry David Thoreau described as its “ethereal” song. Since the 1960s, the Wood Thrush population is estimated to have fallen by 62 percent, from 13 million to about 5 million. This bird faces threats to its forest habitat on both its breeding grounds in eastern North America and on wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America.
  • Long-billed Curlew: A large, loud, iconic shorebird that once ranged from west of the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. In the late 1800s, market hunters all but wiped them out. This species is most threatened by rapid loss of grasslands on both its breeding and wintering grounds. For example, in Chihuahua, Mexico, where many of these birds winter, over a million acres of grasslands have been replaced by irrigated farms since 2005.
  • Upland Sandpiper: A foot-tall grassland bird that announces its arrival at its northern breeding grounds with a call said to resemble a “wolf whistle.” Stories have been told of flocks so large during the late 1800s that it could take an hour for a single group of “Uppies” to pass overhead. But commercial hunters killed them by the trainload in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In addition, the continental population of Upland Sandpipers never recovered due to habitat loss from the widespread conversion of grasslands into overly grazed ranches and large farms.
  • Kirtland’s Warbler: A species that was down to only 167 singing males as recently as 1987. Today, this bird’s population has grown 15-fold, and there is hope that the species will avoid extinction. Kirtland’s Warblers breed only in specialized habitat of young jack pines. Once these trees grow too big, the warblers leave in search of another stand of young jack pines, which grow in the wake of a forest fire. Breeding Kirtland’s Warblers are only found in Michigan in the northern Lower Peninsula and in small numbers in the Upper Peninsula—one of the smallest breeding ranges of any North American bird species. The species winters mostly in the Bahamas. Keeping the Kirtland’s Warbler population recovery going will depend on the continuing success of current programs to create young jack pine forests and reduce nest-raiding by Brown-headed Cowbirds. 

“The most important aspect of the Partners in Flight meeting will be our focus on the full annual life-cycle of these long-distance travelers,” said Ken Rosenberg, a conservation scientist at Cornell Lab of Ornithology and a leader in the PIF initiative. “The actions proposed at the international gathering will affect habitats on these species’ tropical wintering grounds as well as their breeding habitats in North America.” He added that meeting participants will develop conservation strategies focusing on eight geographically based work sessions.

Terrell D. Rich, Partners in Flight National coordinator, says that effective bird conservation has got to involve more than just the scientific community. “It’s critical that scientists find a way to mobilize the many millions of people who watch and feed birds to become active in bird conservation. We really, really need their help.”

“Many of these species need us to take action, now, but the simple truth is that people need them just as much, and probably much more. They are our guardians. Without them, we are lost,” said Tom Will, Wildlife Biologist and Partners in Flight coordinator for the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Invasive Zebra Mussels Found In Cherokee Lake

An invasive species has made its way into Cherokee Lake threatening to disrupt the lake’s ecosystem and clog the lake with harmful and unsightly mussel colonies. Last month, an angler fishing near the TWRA boat ramp at Olen Marshall Bridge in Bean Station discovered what he believed to be zebra mussels.  He contacted the TWRA office and biologists were able to positively ... (click for more)

Photo Contest Underway For 2015-16 Tennessee Wildlife Calendar Issue

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is now accepting entries for its 2014-15 photo contest for publication in the Tennessee Wildlife Magazine’s annual calendar issue. All interested photographers are invited to submit their best photos on fishing and wildlife species native to Tennessee, and fishing and hunting scenes in Tennessee. Interested photographers must submit ... (click for more)

TVA Sues Cleveland's Allan Jones Over Dock, Retaining Wall, Boat Ramp, Boathouse On Hiwassee River

TVA has sued Cleveland, Tn., Check Into Cash millionaire W. Allan Jones Jr. over the construction of a dock, retaining wall, boat ramp and boathouse on the Hiwassee River. In the lawsuit in Federal Court, TVA said it told Mr. Jones before the construction was finished that he was on TVA property. The complaint says he has refused to move the construction from the river. ... (click for more)

Bobby Dodd Lawsuit Against City Moved To Federal Court

A lawsuit brought by former Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd against the city of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Fire and Police Pension Fund over his pension has been moved to Federal Court. The lawsuit was earlier filed in Chancery Court by attorneys Jerry Tidwell and Adam Izell. The suit says former Chief Dodd opted for a plan that would have half of his pension go to ... (click for more)

Please Don't Close The Piccadilly Cafeteria At Hamilton Place - And Response

Oh, no. The Piccadilly Cafeteria at Hamilton Place is closing.  Its last day is Christmas Eve.  I will miss the great food they have there but most of all I will miss their servers, cashiers and waitresses.  They are all so friendly and accommodating.  They make it like it’s a home-style restaurant. I sure wish there was some way that Hamilton Place and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Manger Scene Stays!

When the Freedom From Religion Foundation struck the tiny town of Jay, Fla., earlier this month, the town mayor had a life-sized Nativity scene that had been displayed every Christmas for the past 40 years taken down and sold as “city surplus.” But in Alabama, things are different. When the foundation tried the same thing in Rainbow City, Ala., more people than all those who live ... (click for more)