The seminal products of Partners in Flight are bird conservation plans (found in the resource directory), most notably the continental Landbird Conservation Plan for Canada and the Continental United States, which adds to the existing fleet of conservation plans for bird conservation regions and physiographic areas.
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.
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 our partners for the Plan.