Main Results

One-third of all North American species are in need of urgent conservation action. The analysis of all 1,154 bird species in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico identified 432 species that meet the criteria for the Watch List.

Birds in ocean and tropical forest habitats are of highest conservation concern.

But species need our help in every habitat.

levels of concern for bird species by habitatSpecies were assigned to one breeding habitat, except for oceans and coasts (where species were also included if they occurred anytime during the year) and wetlands (where species were included in both wetlands and their terrestrial breeding habitat). Species that commonly occur in many different habitat types were classified as generalists.

Our Approach

This report is based on the first-ever conservation vulnerability assessment for all 1,154 native bird species that occur in Canada, the continental United States, and Mexico. The assessment was compiled by a team of experts from all three countries. The overall conservation status for each species takes into account its population trend, population size, extent of breeding and nonbreeding ranges, and severity of threats to populations. The Watch List identifies species of highest conservation concern based on high vulnerability scores across multiple factors. Year-round abundance maps from eBird data, in which intensity of color reflects seasonal abundance, are presented for selected species.

Major habitats of North America.Map of major habitats of North America.

Habitat types fell into one of four levels of concern based on the percentage of species they contain that are on the Watch List:

In Crisis: Oceans and Tropical Forests

More than half of species from oceans and tropical forests are on the Watch List because of small and declining populations, small ranges, and severe threats to their habitats.

Steep Declines: Coasts, Aridlands, Grasslands

Many species in coastal, grassland, and aridland habitats are declining steeply. In particular, long-distance migratory shorebirds and species that migrate from the Great Plains to Mexico’s Chihuahuan grasslands have lost, on average, almost 70% of their continental populations since 1970.

Mixed Status: Temperate Forests, Tundra, Wetlands, Boreal Forest

Most species in these habitats are of moderate or low concern, yet roughly 20% are on the Watch List. Waterfowl have benefited from careful harvest management and wetland conservation, but positive waterfowl trends may not last if wetlands loss continues.

Faring Well: Generalists

The generalist group—birds that are adaptable and can live in multiple habitats—are of lowest conservation concern.

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