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US Wildlife Agency Adds Bird Species

…to Protected Migratory Bird List

Washington, D.C., November 8, 2013) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has revised the formal List of Migratory Birds that are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and other laws by adding 23 species to the list and removing four, bringing the total number of birds protected under those laws to 1,026.

The FWS Federal Register Notice was published on Nov. 1, 2013. The amendments to the list, which also included 54 name changes, affect a grand total of 79 species and result in a net addition of 19 species to the List of Migratory Birds, increasing the protected species total from 1,007 to 1,026. Of the 23 species that were added to the list, six were previously covered under the MBTA as subspecies of listed species.

Specifically, the FWS action:
(1) Added five species previously overlooked from a family protected under the MBTA;
(2) Corrected the spelling of six species on the alphabetized list;
(3) Corrected the spelling of three species on the taxonomic list;
(4) Added 11 species based on new distributional records documenting their natural occurrence in the United States since April 2007;
(5) Added one species from a family now protected under the MBTA as a result of taxonomic changes;
(6) Added six species newly recognized as a result of recent taxonomic changes;
(7) Removed four species not known to occur within the boundaries of the United States or its territories as a result of recent taxonomic changes;
(8) Changed the common (English) names of nine species to conform with accepted use; and (9) Changed the scientific names of 36 species to conform to accepted use.

In making determinations, FWS primarily relied on the American Ornithologists’ Union’s (AOU) Check-list of North American Birds, as amended, on matters of taxonomy, nomenclature, and the sequence of species and other higher taxonomic categories (orders, families, subfamilies) for species that occur in North America. The AOU Check-list contains all bird species that have occurred in North America from the Arctic through Panama, including the West Indies and the Hawaiian Islands, and includes distributional information for each species, which specifies whether the species is known to occur in the United States.

“Even though many of the changes correct spelling or add bird species that have occurred as vagrants to the list of protected species, since FWS uses the AOU Check-list to define the list of what is protected and what is not, taxonomic changes can be important, and the law needs to keep pace with these changes to ensure that all species are in fact legally protected,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, one of the nation’s leading bird conservation organizations.

For example, Fenwick said what was formerly known as Winter or Eurasian Wren is now recognized as three distinct species: the Winter Wren of the eastern United States and Canada, the Pacific Wren of the western United States and Canada, and the Eurasian Wren. Not adapting to this change would have left the Pacific Wren without MBTA protection. Similar cases are the need to add the Mexican Whip-poor-will and Puerto Rican Oriole.

It may come as a surprise, Fenwick added, that the Wrentit is only just now receiving protection under the MBTA. Although the Wrentit ranges from coastal Oregon south through large portions of California and into northern Baja California in Mexico, the species was formerly in the Old World family Timaliidae (babblers), a family not protected under the MBTA. The species has been moved to the family Sylviidae (Old World Warblers) a family that is protected under the MBTA. This rights the unusual situation of having a species that occurs in two U.S. states and Mexico and yet was protected under no federal law. This situation is also true of the Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi Elepaios. Because they are members of the Monarchidae, a family not protected under the MBTA, they too are not protected under any federal law. The Oʻahu Elepaio is listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act.

A species qualifies for protection under the MBTA by meeting one or more of the following four criteria: (1) It is covered by the Canadian Convention of 1916, as amended in 1996; (2) It is covered by the Mexican Convention of 1936, as amended in 1972; (3) It is listed in the annex to the Japanese Convention of 1972, as amended or (4) It is listed in the appendix to the Russian Convention of 1976.

The action serves to inform the public of the species protected by the MBTA and its implementing regulations. These regulations are found in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Parts 10, 20, and 21. Those regulations implement most aspects of the taking, possession, transportation, sale, purchase, barter, exportation, and importation of migratory birds.

The List of Migratory Birds was last revised on March 1, 2010.

4th July 2014