The North American Bird Conservation Initiative is out with their annual “State of the Birds” report, and I know it will be of interest to you, my dear readers. The report covers birds ranging across all sorts of habitats, not just the seabirds we know and love (and seek dead on the beaches of the east coast). There is info here on the trends in western and eastern forests (I found it particularly interesting that while 84% of eastern forest is privately owned, western forests tend to be public lands, and thus, the management stratgies differ substantially); arid grasslands and deserts; shores; oceans and islands. The report is written for the lay person, and I encourage you to check it out and spread it around.
I was surprised to learn that the Farm Bill’s conservation initiatives are the big driver of preservation of many grassland species, and I was less surprised to see that outdoor cats kill more birds (by far) in the U.S. every year than all the other human-made causes. Sometimes, we are made to feel like shrill killjoys when we counsel people to keep their cats inside. It can help to have that sky high bar on a graph to point to when making those arguments.
For our seabirds, the threats are a bit different. The usual suspects (fishing practices that entangle albatrosses, introduced species decimating island breeding birds) make their usual appearances in the threats list. The report also mentions offshore power development, including not just fossil fuel drilling, but also offshore wind projects as potential threats. This intrigued me as I have not seen persuasive science indicating that offshore wind farms are a population level threat to birds. It’s particularly important to sort out the science here since arguably the gravest threat to seabirds is climate change. Shifts in prey base, ocean temperature and current alterations, and rising sea level threatening to swamp breeding islands all put pressure on these species. Wind power is a partial answer to the problem of global climate change, so we need to run the cost-benefit analysis on this carefully.
Perhaps I will make this a little research project of mine and bring you what I can find for science on the subject. In the interim, do check out the report, even if just in appreciation of that lovely cover art.