"All the world's governments have committed themselves to slowing or halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010," says the new BirdLife International report launched today at organization's World Conference in Buenos Aires; "Reluctance to commit what are often trivial sums in terms of national budgets means that this target is almost certain to be missed.
The BirdLife report highlights avian losses worldwide. A staggering 45% of common European birds are declining, and on the other side of the globe, Australian wading birds have seen population losses of 81% in just quarter of a century. In Latin America, the Yellow Cardinal - once common in Argentina - is now classified as globally Endangered.
Citing the 2007 Audubon report, BirdLife's State of the World's Birds report states that populations of "Twenty North American common birds have more than halved in number in the last four decades." The Northern Bobwhite fell most dramatically, by 82%. As documented in Audubon's first State of the Birds report in 2004 and reinforced in this report, "Some of North America's fastest declining birds are grassland species whose habitat has been damaged by agricultural expansion and intensification."
"Direct habitat loss continues to be a leading cause for concern at home and abroad," emphasized Audubon Bird Conservation Director, Dr. Greg Butcher, speaking from Buenos Aires, the site of the BirdLife conference. "As we found in 2007, this report points out the increasing impact of large-scale environmental problems such as global warming, along with the continuing toll from weak conservation policies at home."
More than half of the bird species that breed North America and winter in the Neotropics show declining populations over the past 40 years. "This demonstrates the importance of working throughout the Western Hemisphere for bird conservation," said Craig Lee, director of the Audubon International Alliance Program. "This sobering report must remind us that Americans can still play a vital role in protecting migratory birds." Audubon's International Alliances Program was founded in 2006 for just that purpose. It establishes connections that can make a difference across the Western Hemisphere. "If we hope to continuing sharing our North American communities with familiar avian visitors, we must ensure that birds find food, safety and shelter in all of their seasonal homes south of the border, and in the places in between."
Audubon protects those "place in between," including many wetlands and grasslands on the major flyways, by working with BirdLife to designate and protect Important Bird Areas. The global effort identifies and conserves areas vital to birds and other biodiversity. Here in the U.S. Audubon works with its extensive local Chapter network: landowners, public agencies, community groups, and other non-profits to advance the sound management of Important Bird Areas. Audubon Chapters and state offices are extend these localized efforts through alliances with other non-governmental organizations that enable Americans to help protect habitat along the entire migratory routes of familiar species.
Population data for both the new Birdlife Report and Audubon's Common Birds in Decline included vital "citizen science" findings from Audubon's century-old Christmas Bird Count program. The involvement of ordinary people in identifying the problem spurs many to become part of the solution. The 2007 report galvanized local conservation efforts and national policy efforts.
"Fortunately, people's actions can still make a difference," adds Dr. Butcher. "Average citizens can change the fate of these birds just as average citizens helped us confirm the trouble they face. People may not experience all the signs this international report in this country, but the birds whose sights and sounds are growing less familiar at home are a reminder that conservation is an urgent need wherever we live. The BirdlLife report is a warning we all need to heed."
To find details on the Audubon report with media resources and photos, see our Press Room
To read the full BirdLife State of the World's Birds report