Steep Declines

America’s Birds Are in Steep Decline

America’s Birds are in Steep Decline, graph, Photos from Macaulay Library: Baltimore Oriole by Bryan Calk; Ruddy Turnstone by Daniel Iron; Northern Bobwhite by Kenny Miller.Index of population gain/loss among 392 bird species (placed into 3 groups) designated as “greatest concern” by one or more U.S. states. Photos from Macaulay Library: Baltimore Oriole by Bryan Calk; Ruddy Turnstone by Daniel Iron; Northern Bobwhite by Kenny Miller.

Forest birds have experienced consistent declines, with big losses among beloved species such as Wood Thrush and Baltimore Oriole. Altogether, forest bird populations have lost 1.2 billion birds since 1970. The Baltimore Oriole has declined by 44% since 1970; it is designated as a species of greatest conservation need in 7 states.

Shorebirds include many migratory species such as Ruddy Turnstone and Semipalmated Sandpiper that are declining fast, with critically low populations that may soon trigger Endangered Species Act listings. Ruddy Turnstone numbers have fallen by 80% since 1974; it is designated as a species of greatest conservation need in 17 states.

Grassland birds have suffered the steepest losses, with a population decline of 700 million birds. The biggest declines are among birds beloved by birdwatchers and hunters alike, such as Northern Bobwhite. Bobwhite populations have declined by 78% since 1970, and the species is designated as a species of greatest conservation need in 26 states.

Big Losses Among Some of Our Most Beloved Birds

beloved birds l0st since 1970. Left: Eastern Meadowlark by Alan Schmierer/Macaulay Library; Above right: Bank Swallow by Nathan Dubrow/Macaulay Library Below right: Dark-eyed Junco by Evan Lipton/Macaulay LibraryEven some of our most beloved backyard birds have seen steep declines in the last several decades. Photos from Macaulay Library: Bank Swallow by Nathan Dubrow; Eastern Meadowlark by Alan Schmierer; Dark-eyed Junco by Evan Lipton.

The pervasive declines among American birdlife spread well beyond the rare and threatened species; it is a crisis for almost all birds everywhere. Just 15 species of “common birds” (species that were once abundant, such as meadowlarks, juncos, blackbirds, and swallows) account for more than two-thirds of the total loss in native bird populations. Our common birds are now suffering population losses in the tens of millions— similar to the decline of the Passenger Pigeon.