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State of the Birds Report

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National Park Service

Mission: To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

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  NPS Lands at a Glance

• The NPS manages 394 units and 84 million acres of public lands, from small historic sites to large national parks and preserves. These units protect ecosystems, serve as reservoirs of biodiversity, and provide natural sounds, clean water, and air.

• NPS lands receive over 285 million visitors per year, more than any other federally managed lands.

• NPS lands protect all major bird habitats but are most prevalent in coastal habitats, aridlands, and pine-oak forests of the contiguous 48 states, plus arctic/alpine habitats and boreal forests in Alaska.
 
  Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Greg Lavaty  

Stewardship of Birds

• Among federal agencies, the NPS manages lands with the highest percentage of the U.S. distribution of at least 39 breeding bird species and the highest percentage among all public land managers for 14 species.

• NPS lands are important for many
aridland species, including the Lucifer
Hummingbird and California Condor,
which have more than a quarter of their
U.S. distributions on NPS lands.

• Big Bend National Park in Texas supports all known breeding Colima Warblers in the United States; the species is of high conservation concern. Nearly 30% of the U.S. distribution of the Blue-throated Hummingbird is found in Mexican pine-oak forests on NPS lands.

• The NPS supports a large percentage of the U.S. breeding and wintering distributions of coastal species such as Black Guillemot, Common Eider, Rhinoceros Auklet, and White-crowned Pigeon.

• Alaskan National Parks provide more boreal forest habitat for Great Gray Owl,
Northern Hawk Owl, Common Loon, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Common Goldeneye,
than any other public agency lands.

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Percentage distribution of breeding bird species dependent on each habitat on NPS lands.


NPS and Bird Conservation

The strengths of the NPS for bird conservation efforts include conservation mandates for more than 99% of NPS holdings, well-established avian inventory, monitoring and research programs, ecosystem restoration projects, invasive species management, educational programs highlighting bird conservation, and protection of coastal habitat. In National Parks within the U.S. and its territories, 732 regularly occurring native bird species and up to 44 native vagrant species can be observed.

NPS has partnered with many regional habitat protection initiatives, such as the USFS monitoring program and the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, to help parks across the nation contribute to the conservation of grassland birds.

Recognizing that many migratory birds use parks seasonally and winter outside the U.S., the NPS Natural Resource Stewardship and Science and International Affairs offices have brought more than 85 international volunteers from 21 countries to National Parks through the Park Flight Program. These interns assist with bird-monitoring projects and participate in programs that foster cross-cultural appreciation of birds and offer international perspectives to park visitors. These internships and the NPS Sister Park Initiative help build capacity for migratory bird conservation in countries with shared species through technical exchange and cooperation.

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Chris Dodge, a seasonal NPS biological
technician, monitors birds at Sequoia and
Kings Canyon National Parks. Photo by
Carol Beidleman
Conservation in Action: Restoring Endangered Condors and Murrelets

The California Condor is a critically endangered species. In 1987, fewer than 30 birds remained, and the last wild condors were captured for a captive breeding program. Of the 181 California Condors in the wild today, approximately 25% regularly use the habitats within Pinnacles National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. The first California Condor chick to fledge anywhere in the wild since 1982 left its nest cave in Grand Canyon National Park in 2003. In 2010, a wild California Condor chick hatched within Pinnacles National Monument for the first time in more than 100 years. Park biologists help newly released condors choose safe roosting sites and avoid hazards such as power lines, buildings, roads, and lead-contaminated food. Lead poisoning is a major threat facing the successful recovery of the California Condor; at least 20 condors have died from lead poisoning since 1997. Studies have identified bullet fragments in animal carcasses as the primary source of lead ingested by condors. For more than a decade, the NPS has worked with partners to disseminate scientific evidence on lead poisoning in wildlife. Ultimately, an informed public choosing nonlead ammunition could make a major contribution to the recovery of condors and other wildlife.

Populations of Xantus’s Murrelet, a rare seabird that has 98% of its U.S. nesting territory in Channel Islands National Park, had declined to only 20 nest sites on Anacapa Island by 1997, even though estimates had shown that potential habitat on the island may have supported more than 1,500 nest sites. Declines were due primarily to egg predation by nonnative black rats introduced to the island before 1939. Park management eradicated black rats from the island during 2001–02. Since then, hatching success of Xantus’s Murrelet eggs in sea caves has more than doubled. Although the number of nest sites on Anacapa Island is unknown due to the difficult sampling terrain, the number of nests and clutches laid are increasing at monitored sites.

 

 

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