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State of the Birds Report

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Le Conte's Thrasher
by Bill Hubick

Although steep declines continue, conservation initiatives are spreading to restore and protect habitat.

The aridlands indicator for 17 obligate birds—breeding birds of desert, sagebrush, and chaparral habitats in the West—is the most steeply declining of all habitat indicators, with an overall loss of 46% since 1968. Just since 2009 this indicator dropped 6%, extending a nearly continuous 44-year decline. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to residential and energy development are the most consistent and widespread threats. Longterm habitat degradation from unsustainable land use, invasions of non-native grasses, and encroachment by trees and shrubs also play significant (and underappreciated) roles in the decline. These negative effects have been exacerbated over the past decade by severe drought, creating extremely difficult conditions for aridland birds such as Bendire’s and Le Conte’s thrashers, the two fastest declining species in the aridlands indicator.

Greater Sage-Grouse
by Gerrit Vyn

Conservation works!

The NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative is working with more than 1,000 ranchers on privately owned lands within the range of the Greater Sage-Grouse to implement land management practices that benefit both cattle and grouse. The BLM Restore New Mexico initiative has restored 1.8 million acres of aridlands habitat on federal public lands. More large-scale habitat protection and enhancement initiatives are needed to enable aridland birds to persist during prolonged periods of drought, particularly given projections for reduced and more variable precipitation in the Southwest due to climate change.



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