U.S. bird species dying out amid development : report

Tue Sep 9, 2014 3:06pm EDT
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By Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) - Bird populations across the United States are shrinking largely due to development, with the steepest declines in Western states, according to a scientific report released on Tuesday.

Described as the most comprehensive review ever of long-term trend data, "The State of the Birds 2014" sounds a dire warning about extinction if the United States doesn't change its course, but also praises conservation as a solution that works.

"Today, we have the science, technology and knowledge to prevent extinctions. Conservation works," said the report, authored by the U.S. Committee of the North American

Bird Conservation Initiative — a 23-member partnership of government agencies and organizations dedicated to advancing bird conservation.

Destruction of arid lands largely due to development has resulted in a 46 percent decline in the bird population since 1968 in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and other Western states, the report said.

Its release marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, once the most abundant bird in the United States whose mass migration of 1 billion birds in 1860 was said to measure 300 miles (480 km) long, darkening overhead skies and taking 14 hours to pass.

Within decades, hunting and forest clearing wiped out the population, and the very last Passenger Pigeon - a bird named Martha caged at the Cincinnati Zoo - died on Sept. 1, 1914.

Noting the pigeon's fate, the report named 33 U.S. common bird species in steep decline, including the Snowy Owl.   Continued...

A one-legged seagull rests on a rail in front of New York's Empire State Building on a promenade at sunset in Hoboken, New Jersey, July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn