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State of the Birds Report

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Purple Gallinule by
Alessandro Abate

Strong population gains reflect habitat investments, yet wetlands loss continues in some regions.

The inland wetlands indicator for 87 obligate freshwater breeding birds shows strong growth, with a more than 40% gain since 1968. These gains among wetland birds are the continuing legacy of important legislation such as the Clean Water Act and the Farm Bill’s conservation provisions.

According to USFWS breeding duck data, Mallards are 42% above their long-term population average. They are just one of several growing waterfowl populations that benefit from dedicated conservation efforts and funding. Federally protected wetlands (such as National Wildlife Refuges), state and local wildlife management areas, and Wetland Reserve Program projects on private lands conserve more than 10 million acres of waterfowl habitat along the four flyways.

Nevertheless, more than 17 million acres of wetlands have been lost since the 1950s. Some wetland bird populations are declining in regions where significant wetlands loss continues. Long-term declines are most apparent in southeastern marsh species such as Mottled Duck, King Rail, and Purple Gallinule, as well as species dependent on ephemeral prairie wetlands including Black Tern, Le Conte’s Sparrow, and Northern Pintail.

Mallards by Diane

Conservation works!

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has enabled strategic conservation projects covering an area larger than Tennessee. Implemented by the USFWS and using a partnership approach, this model of public–private cooperative conservation has protected or restored wetlands that contributed to reversing declines of Mallard and other waterfowl species. Just as impressive, the Joint Ventures program has proven to be among the most cost-efficient means of conservation delivery—growing every $1 that Congress provides into $36 in total conservation funding to provide more than 20 million acres of habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.


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