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State of the Birds Report

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Boreal Forest

The boreal forest stretches south from the arctic tundra across an area larger than the Amazon rainforest, a blanket of spruces, birch, peat bogs, and other wetlands. Occurring mostly within Canada, the North American boreal forest extends into the United States in Alaska, in states bordering the Great Lakes, and in northern New England. Photo by Garth Lenz

Birds in Trouble


Rusty Blackbird by Jack

Federally listed as endangered: Whooping Crane.

  • Lesser Scaup and White-winged Scoter nest in boreal forests and winter in coastal regions; both have declined by more than 50% in 40 years.

  • The U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan identifies four boreal-nesting species that are of high conservation concern: Whimbrel, Hudsonian Godwit, Solitary Sandpiper, and Short-billed Dowitcher. Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpiper also are experiencing long-term declines.

  • Harris’s Sparrow and Rusty Blackbird are temperate migrants that winter entirely within the U.S.; causes of their steep declines have yet to be determined (Rusty Blackbirds have declined by 75% in 40 years). 

  • Birds that periodically come south in winter, such as Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Siskin, White-winged Crossbill, and Evening Grosbeak, have experienced long-term declines. 

  • Many Neotropical migrants show consistent declines, including boreal specialists such as Blackpoll Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and Connecticut Warbler.

Trumpeter Swan by
Deb Simon

Reasons for Hope

Boreal wetland birds such as Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and Bonaparte’s Gull have increased. Management efforts for Trumpeter Swans throughout their historic range have been highly successful.

Vast areas of virgin boreal forest still remain, presenting opportunities for large-scale conservation. In 2007 and 2008, Ontario and Quebec promised to protect more than 120 million acres of Canada’s boreal forest—one of the largest conservation actions in North American history if implemented.

See next page for information about subtropical forests.


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