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State of the Birds Report

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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Mission: To work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants,and their habitats, for the continuing benefit of the American people.

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  USFWS Lands at a Glance

• USFWS manages 553 National Wildlife Refuges and approximately
7,000 Waterfowl Production Areas, which conserve about 150 million acres from the southern Caribbean to the northernmost tip of Alaska across the Pacific Ocean to Japan.

• The first federal land stewardship effort to protect birds came in 1903 when President Theodore Roosevelt established Florida’s Pelican Island as the first National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Today, the National Wildlife Refuge System is the nation’s most extensive network of public lands and waters with the primary mission to conserve wildlife and natural habitats.

• The 76.8 million acres conserved in Alaska on 16 National Wildlife Refuges, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, conserves an unbroken continuum of arctic and subarctic ecosystems, including
tundra, boreal forest, wetlands, and coasts.

• The National Wildlife Refuge System manages 180 marine or coastal wildlife refuges, including more than 20 million coastal acres and 30,000 coastal miles, and 7 million ocean acres, of which almost 3 million are in coral reef ecosystems.
 
  Image: Whooping Crane by Gerrit Vyn   

Stewardship of Birds

• More than 1 million acres of wetlands are actively managed on 356 refuges and approximately 7,000 Waterfowl Production Areas for waterfowl and other birds. USFWS lands in the Prairie Pothole Region occupy less than 2 percent of the landscape but produce nearly 23 percent of the region’s waterfowl, making this region the “duck factory” of North America.

• Shorebirds depend on many of the same refuges that were established for waterfowl, including the Arctic NWR (Alaska), critical for many species of nesting shorebirds, and important stopover habitats such as Yukon Delta (Alaska), Grays Harbor (Washington), Bear River (Utah), Quivira (Kansas), and Bald Knob (Arkansas). Along the Atlantic Coast, Red Knots depend on coastal Refuges including Monomoy (Massachusetts), Cape May (New Jersey), and Cape Romain (South Carolina), as they migrate from the arctic to the tip of South America and back.

• Island refuges in the Bering Sea and the central Pacific provide nesting habitats for endemic seabirds, and virtually all McKay’s Buntings. Two million birds use the Midway Atoll Refuge including the world’s largest population of nesting Laysan Albatrosses. Islands of Alaska Maritime NWR provide essential habitats for some 40 million seabirds of more than 30 species.

• Fifty-nine National Wildlife Refuges have been established primarily to conserve threatened or endangered species; examples include Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken NWR (Texas), Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR (Mississippi), and Aransas NWR (Texas), which supports the only naturally occurring overwintering population of Whooping Cranes.

• Species with more than one-third of their U.S. breeding distributions on vast Alaskan NWRs include tundra-nesting Emperor Goose, Brant, Tundra Swan, Black-bellied Plover, Bristle-thighed Curlew, and Pomarine Jaeger, as well as boreal-forest birds such as Rusty Blackbird, Gray Jay, and Spruce Grouse.

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


USFWS and Bird Conservation

The USFWS has Congressional authority to conserve and protect migratory birds on all U.S. lands and waters through several legislative mandates. Among the first and most important is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which provides federal protection for 1,007 migratory species. The USFWS, in partnership with states and other organizations, is responsible for understanding population dynamics and regulating harvest of migratory game birds, including waterfowl, rails, and doves. To manage species that may negatively impact local economies or quality of life because of over-abundance, the USFWS works with states and other partners to control bird species such as Double-crested Cormorant and resident populations of Canada Goose.

In 2010, the USFWS established a National Wildlife Refuge System Inventory and Monitoring Program to strategically coordinate data and management activities with other agencies and conservation organizations. The USFWS, along with states and other partners, conducts breeding and winter waterfowl surveys, Mourning Dove “coo counts,” woodcock surveys, and surveys for endangered species as needed. USFWS also works in close partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, which oversees the Breeding Bird Survey and other bird population monitoring programs critical to the decisions of land managers. These and other programs depend heavily on the expertise of thousands of citizen-science participants who contribute their data to these programs.

The USFWS administers the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps.” Originally created in 1934 as federal licenses required for hunting migratory waterfowl, Duck Stamps have generated more than $750 million to help purchase or lease more than 5.3 million acres of waterfowl habitat, now protected within the National Wildlife Refuge System. All bird enthusiasts and visitors to the National Wildlife Refuge System are encouraged to purchase a Duck Stamp annually for the protection of more bird habitat. Duck Stamps also provide free entry to all National Wildlife Refuges.

Because of its key role in conserving migratory birds on all U.S. lands, the USFWS administers habitat grant programs, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act which since 1990 has generated more than $1.08 billion in grants, plus another $2.24 billion in partner contributions to improve 25.9 million acres of habitat in North America. Similarly, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act supported 333 projects since 2002, generating more than $35 million in grants and leveraging more than $136 million in matching funds to conserve about 2 million acres of bird habitat throughout the Western Hemisphere. The USFWS also administers the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, a national network of self-directed partnerships that implement bird conservation in ecoregions around the nation. Since the program's inception in 1986, Joint Ventures have invested $4.5 billion to conserve 15.7 million acres of migratory bird habitat.

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Rat Island photo courtesy of USFWS
Conservation in Action: Birds of the Aleutian Islands

The Aleutian Islands are a Biosphere Reserve supporting globally significant seabird populations and supplying some of the finest seabird habitat in the world. For more than four decades, the USFWS has restored seabird habitat at Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge by eradicating invasive species. In collaboration with Island Conservation and The Nature Conservancy, the USFWS has reclaimed 7,000 acres of habitat for native wildlife. For example, on the refuge’s Rat Island, rats preyed on eggs and chicks, decimating native bird populations and altering native ecosystems. After the largest rat eradication effort in the Northern Hemisphere, Rat Island was declared rat-free in 2010. Over the long-term, burrow-nesting seabirds, including Tufted Puffins, Ancient Murrelets, and storm-petrels, are expected to recolonize the island.

 

 

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