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State of the Birds Report

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Urban-Suburban Landscapes

More than 97 million acres, or roughly 4%, of land in the U.S. is in urban or suburban areas, with 95% of this land privately owned. Although many grassland and forest birds avoid urban areas, more than 100 native bird species, including hawks, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and orioles find urban and suburban habitats suitable for breeding. Many species also use these urbanized habitats during migration and winter. Homeowners’ yards, corporate parks, and other private urban greenspaces (owned by groups such as land trusts) can provide vital habitat for birds, especially if patches of native vegetation are maintained.

Chimney Swift Distribution

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Some bird species, such as Chimney Swift, are now highly adapted to urban environments. Chimney Swift breeding distribution is highly concentrated around major cities in the eastern U.S. (Brighter areas on map indicate higher probability of occupancy. Occupancy estimates were based on bird observations from eBird and characteristics of the local environment from remote sensing data.) Chimney Swift populations have been declining steeply due to changes in chimney designs on homes and other buildings. Chimney Swift by Tom Johnson.

 

Urban Greenspace

Urban areas can be more bird-friendly and bird deaths can be reduced through measures to prevent collisions with glass windows, adjust nighttime lighting so as not to attract birds, and encourage pet owners to keep cats indoors.

Several programs guide municipalities in managing and restoring habitat for birds. Many cities have adopted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds to provide zoning recommendations that benefit bird habitat and conservation. Land trusts also play key roles in preserving valuable bird habitat in urban areas. For example, the Central Indiana Land Trust worked with landowners Bob and Mary Lou Rice to protect 56 acres of hardwood forest in Indianapolis with a conservation easement. This property, now open to the public for hiking and birding, adjoins an Audubon Important Bird Area and is an important habitat for Neotropical migrant birds as well as many resident birds.

Corporate office grounds have a role to play in bird conservation, too. Office buildings can earn credit toward Leadership in Environment and Energy Design (LEED) certification by using bird-safe exterior glass. The nonprofit Wildlife Habitat Council's "Wildlife at Work" program has worked with employers and employees at more than 650 sites to create, conserve, and restore wildlife habitats on corporate lands.

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YardMap, a citizen-science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, uses social networking and mapping technologies to help people create bird-friendly landscaping on their properties and share ideas with neighbors. Homeowners are also contributing long-term monitoring data to Project FeederWatch, NestWatch, and eBird.  

Backyard Habitats

Homeowners can enhance backyard habitats by landscaping with native plants and providing nesting sites as well as supplemental food and water sources. The National Wildlife Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program has helped people with more than 150,000 bird-friendly backyards.

 

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