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Report Highlights US Birds` Plight

Almost a third of US birds declining significantly

Around 30% of North America`s bird species are declining significantly according to a new report from The National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the US). State of the Birds USA 2004 paints a disturbing picture of the region`s bird life:

* 70% of grassland species are in statistically significant declines
* 36% of shrubland bird species are declining significantly
* 25% of forest bird species are declining significantly
* 13% of wetland bird species are declining significantly
* 23% of bird species in urban areas are declining significantly

According to the report these declines are abnormal. Not part of the natural cyclical rise and fall in bird populations, statistically significant declines are due to outside factors such as loss of native grasslands, overgrazing of grassland and shrubland, development of wetlands, bad forest management, invasive species, pollution, and poor land use decisions.Like the canary in the coal mine warning the miner of danger ahead, birds are an indicator of environmental and human health, said Audubon President John Flicker. Birds signal that we are at risk next. People created these problems and people can solve them if we act now.

State of the Birds offers a number of ways to improve the situation. It makes the case for private and public action, especially in strengthening, not weakening, existing environmental protections and more rigorously supervising their enforcement. Based on the report`s findings, Audubon is advocating improved grassland, forest, and wetland protection, stronger pollution controls, partnerships with private landowners, and backyard habitat programmes for homeowners.

Birds not only serve as reliable indicators of environmental conditions, they also contribute greatly to the US economy. According to the U.S. Forest Service, 69 million Americans ? one-third of all adults in the country - call themselves birdwatchers. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service notes that they contribute at least $32 billion in retail sales, $85 billion in overall economic output, and $13 billion in state and federal taxes, creating 863,406 jobs. So keeping birds ? and their home habitats ? in good condition is not only a good conservation policy, but also good business.

Birds also contribute to the bottom line in more subtle ways, providing free pest and weed control, distributing seeds, and pollinating flowers and crops, continued Flicker. We simply cannot afford to ignore the state of the birds.

4th July 2014