Bird City Network Mobilizes Communities to Help Achieve ABC's Habitat Conservation Mission

The newly launched Bird City Network catalyzes community-level bird conservation and connects communities for greater impact.
Mural painting taking place to celebrate the launch of City of Birds Santander de Quilichao in Colombia. Photo courtesy of Environment for the Americas

At American Bird Conservancy (ABC), safeguarding Endangered birds from extinction is a key goal, but so is keeping species that are still relatively common from becoming Endangered in the first place. A powerful way to conserve birds across this spectrum is to build public support for birds at the community level. That's why ABC is coordinating the new Bird City Network with partner Environment for the Americas. Currently fostering coordination and collaboration among Bird City programs in the United States, Mexico, and Colombia, the Network plans to expand and support Bird City efforts across the Western Hemisphere. 

Dark-eyed Junco. Photo by Amy Fought/Shutterstock

More than 3 billion birds have been lost from U.S. and Canadian skies since 1970, and many of those losses come from species that are well-known to urban dwellers, especially during migration. White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos, for instance, might seem common to those with backyard feeders, but both of these species have suffered steep declines due to human-caused threats like window collisions and free-roaming cats. Birds also suffer from loss of native plant communities that support the insect life birds rely on, and can be harmed by pesticides used on lawns and gardens. 

The decline of common birds is a reminder that individual actions impact even abundant species. Fortunately, it's also possible for individuals and communities to take steps to slow or reverse such declines before the situation is even more desperate. This work to build conservation capacity forms the foundation of ABC's strategic bird conservation framework.

“Individual actions add up and can make a real difference for birds,” said Bryan Lenz, ABC's Bird City Network Director. “While ABC works in a lot of remote regions across the Americas to save Endangered birds, we are also investing in efforts like the Bird City Network to help communities conserve birds closer to home — wherever home may be. Community conservation efforts are an important part of building conservation capacity on a grand scale, which is what birds need now.” 

Bird City began in 2009 in Wisconsin as a mechanism to help urban communities in the state commit to local bird conservation efforts. When Bird City spread out of Wisconsin to other states — and even other countries — ABC and partner Environment for the Americas decided to come together to rally the various regional programs under one umbrella. The resulting Bird City Network launched this month.   

“Bird City Network empowers everyone who wants to become a bird conservationist with the added benefit of being able to improve the place where they live at the same time,” Lenz said. “We want to make every community good habitat for both birds and people.”

Participants in the festival launching City of Birds Santander de Quilichao in Colombia dressed up as birds in celebration. Photo courtesy of Environment for the Americas

To gain recognition as a Bird City, communities must complete a series of bird-friendly actions which are arranged in four categories: Habitat, Threats to Birds, Education and Engagement, and Sustainability. One of Bird City Network's goals is to weave conservation into the fabric of communities, so Bird City status must be renewed every year or two. 

“Bird City is not a ‘one and done' program,” Lenz said. “This is a long-term commitment being made by hundreds of communities and the individuals that make up those communities across the U.S. and beyond. I'm incredibly optimistic that, working together, community by community, we can really change the trajectory for birds across the Americas. We can bring the birds back.” 

Find out how Galveston, Texas became a Bird City, and stay tuned for an upcoming article with examples of actions your community can take to join the Network!


American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and X/Twitter (@ABCbirds).

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