Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan 2016


This 2016 Plan Revision documents widespread declines in populations of many of the 448 species of landbirds in the U.S. and Canada—a foreboding indicator that the health of ecosystems upon which we all depend is being degraded. Although we have made much progress over the past 20 years, the daunting task of conserving several hundred landbird species across vast and varied landscapes under diverse ownership requires unprecedented levels of cooperation among the public, private, and industrial sectors.

In 2004, Partners in Flight (PIF) published the first North American Landbird Conservation Plan (NALCP, Rich et al.), presenting the results of a comprehensive landbird species vulnerability assessment for the U.S. and Canada. The 2004 NALCP presented a Watch List that identified the species of highest conservation concern, along with a summary of their status, monitoring needs, and the first estimates of population size, leading to bold continental population objectives. Compelling new science that refines the biological foundation of our conservation indicators and objectives, combined with new opportunities for conservation throughout the full life-cycle of these species, prompted us to revise and update the Plan.

We intend this 2016 Plan Revision to:

  1. Refine and update the relative vulnerability assessment of 448 species of North American landbirds;
  2. Present new scientific assessments and tools to integrate into range-wide and full life-cycle conservation implementation; and
  3. Deliver recommendations to advance high priority landbird conservation actions over the next 10 years.

We encourage:

  • Conservation practitioners to implement and evaluate conservation actions to achieve the continental landbird population objectives presented in this Plan Revision;
  • Leaders and decision makers to guide policy and allocate resources to benefit landbird conservation broadly; and
  • All PIF partners to share this Plan Revision widely with colleagues, young professionals and students to foster a greater appreciation for and engagement in bird conservation.

A New Sense of Urgency

Although we have made significant progress since 2004, many landbird species continue to exhibit alarming population declines. The steepest recent declines are seen in grassland birds, species of aridland habitats such as sagebrush and desert scrub, and forest species dependent on specialized structural features or natural disturbance. PIF estimates that breeding landbird populations have been reduced by over a billion individuals since 1970. Several PIF priority species have recently been petitioned for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and in Canada formerly common and widespread species are increasingly being listed under the Species at Risk Act.

Our new urgency analyses indicate that the window for reversing declines and preventing endangerment is narrower than we thought. Among the 86 Watch List species presented in this 2016 Plan Revision, 22 species that have already lost at least half of their population in the past 40 years are projected to lose an additional 50% of their current population within the next 40 years. For at least six species this “half-life” window is fewer than 20 years. Equally troubling is that nearly half of all Watch List species are too poorly monitored to predict future trajectories, adding to the sense of urgency for these species.

The daunting challenge of conserving landbird population can only be addressed through strong and sustainable partnerships among the public, private and industrial sectors. Within each of the following sections, we offer a set of PIF Recommended Actions that will be necessary in the coming decade to prevent future species listings, keep common birds from becoming highly threatened, address the full life-cycle needs of migratory birds, and bridge the gap between science-based planning and successful on-the-ground implementation. We encourage readers to review these important actions and help develop new and creative ways to carry them out.

We thank and acknowledge the many people listed here for the Plan.

COVER_PIF Landbird Conservation Plan

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2016 Plan: What is New Since 2004?

This 2016 Plan Revision presents four new and updated tools for bird conservation:

  • Extinction Risk models that convey quantitative measures of urgency;
  • Responsibility assignments for continental Watch List species scaled to Joint Ventures and Bird Conservation Regions (BCR);
  • Full life-cycle analysis of year-round eBird data to identify areas of greatest importance to migrants in the non-breeding season; and
  • Species assessment scores updated with improved access to the associated PIF database.