With the addition of 186 species, the number of species the Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects topped 1,000, according to an announcement this past Monday from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Eleven birds were removed from the list, meaning a net gain (so to speak) of 175 birds. This update, the first to this list in 25 years, takes effect March 31.
The change helps the agency better protect migratory birds in the U.S., according to Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould. And, as he states, it benefits just about everyone—researchers, hunters, conservationists, state agencies, tribal governments, and birdwatchers.
Once a species makes it onto the list, the FWS closely regulates its “taking, possession, transportation, sale, purchase, barter, exportation, and importation,” states the Federal Register final rule about the change. Ninety-four of the species—including little bunting, Eurasian curlew, black-winged petrel, tufted flycatcher, mottled owl, and little egret—were added due to new or re-reviewed documentation proving their occurrence in the U.S., Puerto Rico, or U.S. Virgin Islands.
Ten of the 11 were removed because new evidence showed that these species’ ranges fell entirely outside the U.S. and its territories. (Those removed from the list include rosy finch, green-backed heron, black-shouldered kite, lesser noddy, dark-rumped petrel, water pipit, black-backed wagtail, yellow wagtail, Strickland’s woodpecker, and three-toed woodpecker.) The eleventh species, black-billed magpie, FWS acknowledged as its own subspecies, Pica hudsonia.
Penalty for breaking the Migratory Bird Treaty Act can be stiff. This past February, a man from Washington State earned 45 days of jail time and a fine of $1,000 for driving his Jeep on a beach through flocks of Heermann’s gulls and Caspian terns, both protected species, reported the Seattle Times.