Across the Americas, more than 500 native bird species are threatened with extinction — 12 percent of 4,230 species. In the United States alone, nearly 300 of 750 native bird species, or 37 percent, are declining in population.
The 2014 WatchList provides a full picture on the situation of birds today. If these declines in bird populations are not enough, consider these additional reasons that conserving birds is important.
People have always admired birds. Species like Golden Eagles, doves, and ravens permeate history and cultures around the world. Images of cranes, falcons, geese, and parrots adorn the walls of Neolithic caves, Egyptian pyramids, Mayan temples — and many American homes today.
Storks deliver us at birth and owls mourn our deaths. Each new generation marvels at the beauty of birds and envies their ability to fly.
Because they are sensitive to habitat change and are easy to census, birds are an important tool for ecologists measuring the health of environments.
Whether ecosystems are managed for agricultural production, wildlife, water, or tourism, success can be measured by the health and diversity of bird populations.
Birds have been a driving force behind the conservation movement in the United States since its early days, when unregulated hunting, use of toxic pesticides, and destruction of wetlands and other habitats threatened wildlife and wild places.
The environmental problems we face today are even more complex, and we need a new generation of committed conservationists to counter them. When people discover the wonder of birds, their interest often leads to support of conservation.
At last count, the number of birders in the United States stood at 73 million. These bird lovers spend $40 billion annually by feeding birds, purchasing equipment, and traveling in pursuit of birds — including to many ABC-supported reserves.
Birding supports the economy, not to mention the invaluable benefits birds provide to people through ecosystem services such as insect and rodent control, plant pollination, and seed dispersal.
We at American Bird Conservancy believe that people have an absolute ethical obligation to maintain all other species — regardless of their functional values.
We should no more allow the loss of species than destroy a masterpiece of art: It takes only one look at an incredible bird like the Marvelous Spatuletail or the awe-inspiring California Condor to realize the truth of this statement.
The least our generation can do is to ensure that our children inherit as much as we have now. It is on this ethical commitment to the future that American Bird Conservancy is founded.