The great streams of migratory birds that once filled North America's skies are dwindling as habitat loss, climate change, and other threats take their toll. The declines cast doubt on the continued survival of these birds and the greatest wildlife phenomenon in the Western Hemisphere.
Confronting these threats, and bringing back the birds, requires innovation on a grand scale. That's the thinking behind our new BirdScapes approach, which builds on our 25+ years of experience with migratory bird conservation.
It's no small feat to conserve birds that travel 4,000 miles or more each year across continents and international borders. We're working to ensure that priority species have the habitat they require at all stages of their life-cycles: breeding, wintering, and stopover on migration.
We call these priority habitat areas BirdScapes. They are places that are large enough to increase the numbers of target species, but small enough to facilitate measurement of results. (Click image to enlarge)
From the Northern Prairie BirdScape, where Long-billed Curlews breed, to the Guatemala Conservation Coast, where Golden-winged Warblers and other migratory birds winter among shade-grown crops, BirdScapes are strategically placed to have the greatest impact.
A BirdScape typically covers 150,000 to 2.5 million acres. Each one is unique, shaped by local and regional conditions. But some elements are common to nearly all BirdScapes. For example, natural habitats that provide for the needs of priority birds, areas in need of restoration, working lands for people, and protected areas.
Regardless of composition, BirdScapes are places where smart land-use leads to successful bird conservation, creating win-win results for both people and birds.
When it comes to BirdScapes, location is everything. Working with our partners across the Western Hemisphere, we have defined more than 50 BirdScapes that take into account a combination of factors, including distribution and abundance of target species, land cover data, socioeconomic conditions, and more, to ensure that strategic conservation investment provides long-term benefits to the species that need it most.
BirdScapes benefit entire suites of birds, from grassland birds that breed on the Great Plains and winter in the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands of Mexico, such as Long-billed Curlew and Sprague's Pipit; to Gulf Coast birds like Black Skimmer, Wilson's and Snowy Plover, and Least Tern; to forest birds like Golden-winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler and Wood Thrush. (Photo: Wilson's Plover by Norman Bateman)
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Building on Solid Science
In many cases, the primary tools used to support bird conservation—science, education, land protection—have yet to be fully integrated into a unified approach. BirdScapes achieve this integration, bringing together a broad range of expertise in economics; water use; bird-friendly (and income-producing) land uses; social dimensions; habitat management; protection and restoration; and—perhaps, most importantly—science.
Scientific knowledge of birds and migration has grown significantly in the past decade through a range of advancements, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird and miniature geolocators to climate science and resiliency. We are committed to applying cutting-edge scientific knowledge to design and maintain the most successful BirdScapes possible. (Photo: Bird-banding on the Gulf Coast by Aditi Desai)
The definition of a BirdScape begins with the birds, but it doesn't end there. We consider the presence of existing and potential partner organizations an essential ingredient for success. In each BirdScape, we work with a spectrum of partners across nonprofit, commercial, academic, and government sectors that share our commitment to landscape-level conservation for migratory birds.
Together, we're building a future in which humans and migratory birds—and all of the many species that benefit when we conserve birds—can live and thrive together in all of the places they call home.
Dominated by forests and wetlands, the Poconos BirdScape is home to breeding grounds for several priority species, including Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, and Cerulean Warbler. A strong partnership among government agencies, universities, and private landowners is the foundation for a comprehensive approach to forest bird conservation. Several activities to benefit forest birds and other wildlife are ongoing in this BirdScape. (Click image to enlarge.)
1. Pennsylvania Game Commission uses commercial timber harvest and non-commercial practices such as prescribed fire to create structurally diverse forest conditions.
2. ABC, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture assist USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service with the delivery of Working Lands for Wildlife and Regional Conservation Partnership Programs that target Golden-winged Warbler and Cerulean Warbler, respectively.
3. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA-DCNR) Bureau of Forestry manages for healthy forest age diversity across more than 80,000 acres in this region, including a 2,500-acre Golden-winged Warbler Special Management Area.
4. & 5. PA-DCNR State Parks and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area also provide considerable habitat and opportunities for bird conservation.
|Bringing back the birds: ABC's Migratory Bird Program is helping migratory species bounce back. Read more.
|Taking Flight: Learn how ABC works to make sure that Golden-winged Warbler, Bicknell's Thrush, and other species survive. Read more.
|Making a Difference: Migratory birds need your help. Make a difference today by acting on urgent issues.