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Charting a Healthy Future for North America’s Birds


Charting a Healthy Future for North America’s Birds

One of the great conservation success stories of the past 100 years was, and is, the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1916.  As part of the centennial celebration, and in recognition of the need for continued commitment to bird conservation, five of the leading research, education and conservation organizations in the United States and Canada have just released a new report: Charting a Healthy Future for North America’s Birds.

About the treaty

The Treaty recognized the need for cooperation between countries, initially Canada and the United States; and later Mexico.  It connected the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with federal, state, private, non-government, tribal, and international partners dedicated to conserving, protecting, and managing migratory bird populations and their habitats.

The Migratory Bird Treaty was enacted at a time when many bird species were threatened by commercial overhunting and collection of bird feathers.   Some species were near extinction. Unfortunately the treaty was too late to save the Passenger Pigeon; whose population dropped from an estimated 3 billion birds to none!

In June of this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Barack Obama, and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico renewed their nations’ commitment to protecting migratory bird habitat and called for developing a vision for the next 100 years of bird conservation.

About the report
Charting a Healthy Future for North America’s Birds. – New tools for studying bird migration and populations
As described in the report, new technologies are revolutionizing the understanding of bird migration patterns and habitat requirements.  Satellite tracking, radio telemetry and web-based citizen science programs are providing new insights into the habitat requirements for birds.  This includes nesting areas, migration paths and wintering homes.

One of the most important areas in need of protection is North America’s Boreal Forest. The boreal forest spans the northern portion of the continent from Alaska to the eastern coast of Canada. It covers an astonishing 1.5 billion acres—larger than all but six countries.

The boreal forest is a critically important breeding ground for billions of North America’s birds. The boreal forest is vital to the abundance of bird life in the U.S. and Canada and contributes in a significant way to bird life all the way from Mexico to South America. Nearly 50% of the 700 species that regularly occur in the U.S. and Canada rely on the boreal forest for their survival. More than 300 species regularly breed in the boreal forest.

Canada Warbler
Canada Warbler speaking out about the new report.

The new report makes three primary recommendations:
– Protect at least 50% of the boreal forest region
– Land-use decisions should be led by indigenous governments and local communities
– Encourage and fund migratory bird research

The report is a collaboration of five organizations:
– Ducks Unlimited Canada
 – Boreal Songbird Initiative
 – Ducks Unlimited
 – Environment for the Americas
 – The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The full report and an Executive summary are available on the Boreal Songbird Initiative web site.

Lead image from the Charting a Healthy Future for North America’s Birds report:  Copyright © 2016 Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Boreal Birds

The State of North America’s Birds 2016
The North American Bird Conservation Initiative was created by the governments of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico in 1999 to recognize birds as an international “natural economic resource.” NABCI is a trinational commitment to protecting, restoring, and enhancing populations and habitats of North America’s birds.

Canada Warbler © Glenn Bartley

Wells, J., D. Childs, F. Reid, K. Fraser, A. Roberto-Charron, J. Fitzpatrick, M. Darveau, K. Smith, and S. Bonfield. 2016. Charting a Healthy Future for North America’s Birds: 100 Years After the Migratory Bird  Treaty, Innovative Conservation and Technology Essential to Overcome New Challenges. Boreal Songbird Initiative, Seattle, Washington, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, Ducks Unlimited Inc., Memphis, Tennessee, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Stonewall, Manitoba, and Environment for the Americas, Boulder, Colorado





About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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