Monday, September 9, 2013

Advancing Bird Conservation Across the Americas

Two weeks ago I attended the fifth International Partners in Flight Conference and Conservation Workshop in Utah.
For years, bird conservation groups have been speaking of the need to work together to save birds in every corner of their range. Unfortunately, there has not been a master playbook that identifies priorities and organizes such “full life-cycle” conservation plans. Partners in Flight is a cooperative migratory bird conservation effort involving partnerships among federal, state and local government agencies, philanthropic foundations, professional organizations, conservation groups, industry, the academic community, and private individuals. The Connecticut Audubon Society is an active partner in this group.

This fifth conference was organized by the American Bird Conservancy, the leading bird conservation organization in the United States,in an effort to use science to develop conservation business plans to protect migratory birds not only here on their breeding grounds, but also on their Central and South American, Mexican and Caribbean wintering grounds, as well as on migratory stop-over locations.  

The conference addressed key migratory bird species and their conservation needs by breaking down major habitats into eight linked “Geographic Focal Areas,” based on suites of Watch List species that share a common wintering geography. These wintering areas are linked through the migrations of the birds themselves to specific breeding areas in Canada and the U.S.

I participated in a three-day series of work sessions to develop a “Conservation Business Plan” covering the most important geographic areas in the Caribbean focal area, where our Connecticut Watch List breeding birds ­– including Worm-eating Warbler, Wood Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Prairie Warbler -- spend the winter. Other focal areas concentrated on Mexico and Latin America wintering grounds.

One of the outcomes is a plan to include Latin American countries as signatories on the Migratory Bird Treaty as a first step in bird conservation. Currently only Canada, Mexico, Russia, Japan and the U.S. have signed this important treaty.

Other projects include plans for supporting the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds and the Caribbean Birding Trail and other outreach efforts. The specific scientific actions we developed included connectivity research of migratory birds (full life cycle monitoring), establishment of winter monitoring banding/resighting stations, and population monitoring projects such as marking birds from species of concern with geolocator tags to identify migration pathways and wintering areas.

This is an exciting new direction in bird conservation, applying science to conservation actions for migratory birds on their full life-cycle range. We made many new friends, colleagues and partners in the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains of Utah and look forward to working together to conserve our birds throughout their life-cycle geography. -- Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation.

Photographs copyright E. H. Soderberg

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