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State of the Birds Report

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Natural Resource Use


Unsustainable logging in the boreal
forest destroys habitat needed by
wildlife. Photo by Peter Lee

The intentional killing of birds has been a significant factor in the past, including egrets killed for plumes, shorebirds for food, and raptors for sport. Hunting is no longer a cause of bird population declines in the United States, thanks to strong regulations and harvest management. However, numerous other practices related to resource use are still a deadly factor for birds.

Most U.S. forest ecosystems have been affected by logging, road construction, monocultural tree plantations, and fire suppression. These have caused fragmentation; a lack of mature trees, snags, and natural early successional forests; degradation of streamside habitats; and overgrowth of brush and small trees because of fire exclusion, all of which can have negative consequences for wildlife. For example, more than 85% of old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest has been eliminated, leading to the listing of the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet as threatened under the Endangered Species Act

In arid regions of the West, excessive grazing has degraded grasslands and denuded streamside areas where most bird species forage and breed. Overfishing in oceans has led to the starvation and nesting failures of birds. Overharvesting of horseshoe crabs has been attributed to rapid declines of Red Knots, which must gorge on horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay to finish their annual migration to the arctic. Many fishing practices such as long-lining, gill nets, and trawling can hook or entangle seabirds or disrupt their food supply.

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