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State of the Birds 2014: Common Birds in Steep Decline List

A team of scientists from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) identified the 33 U.S. common bird species in steep decline
A team of scientists from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) identified the 33 U.S. common bird species in steep decline. Photo of Eastern Meadowlark by Gerrit Vyn.

The idea of conservation brings to mind urgent actions: the race to save endangered species. But even more important is the goal of keeping common species common, the conservation equivalent of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” There’s no more potent reminder of this than the Passenger Pigeon, whose populations flatlined before anybody could reverse the declines.

With that in mind, the authors of the 2014 State of the Birds report analyzed North American bird populations for evidence of sharp recent declines among species that have always been numerous. These are early warning signs—clues that a habitat may be in trouble. By turning our attention to these problems, we may be able to identify the cause and turn around the trend before a population decline becomes irreversible.

The result is Common Birds in Steep Decline, a list of 33 common species compiled by scientists from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. Long-term monitoring surveys indicate that each of these rapidly declining species has lost more than half its global population over the past four decades. This list complements the 2014 Watch List, which covers 228 species that are endangered, threatened, or at risk of becoming endangered.



List of Common Birds in Steep Decline:

Links take you to the All About Birds species guide.

(Top image by Stef den Ridder, Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bartels Science Illustration intern. Species photos (in same order as above list): Tony Varela; Marilyn Martin-Schwan; Kurt Kirchmeier; Ashley Northcotte; Jamie Chavez; Christopher L. Wood; Duane & Shirleen Hymas; Tom Smith; Cleber Ferreira; Euan Reed; Gerrit Vyn; Kelly Colgan Azar; Gerry Dewaghe; Bryan Hix; Ganesh Jayaraman; Jim Paris; Gerrit Vyn; Terry & Joanne Johnson; Kenneth Cole Schneider; Andy Johnson; Phillip Simmons; Lois Manowitz; Raymond Lee; Alessandro Abate; Jim Gilbert; Carlos Escamilla; Graham Munton; Raymond Lee; Ian Davies; Glenn Bartley; Joan Gellatly; Ganesh Jayaraman; photosbyjoe.)

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library