North American Species at High Risk
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The 2016 annual Audubon Great Backyard Bird Count in February and a report compiled by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative show that more than a third of all North American bird species are at risk of becoming extinct unless significant action is taken, especially ocean and tropical birds. The governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico created the North American Bird Conservation Initiative in 1999.
More than half the species that rely on oceans and tropical forests are on a special watch list because of small and declining populations, limited ranges and severe threats to their habitats. The report pinpoints invasive predators such as rats and cats on nesting islands, as well as overfishing, pollution and climate change. Ways to address the problem include removing predators, expanding protected marine areas and reducing the amount of plastic products that end up in the ocean and can trap or choke birds.
Many species such as long-distance migratory shore birds in coastal, grassland and arid habitats are declining steeply. The main causes are rising sea levels, coastal development, encroaching human activity and oil spills.
This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Natural Awakenings.