The National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy jointly released a watch list partially identifying 59 species in the continental United States that are on a “red list” of the greatest concern and 119 more that are either seriously declining or rare.
Listed birds in Pennsylvania include the short-eared owl, which used to breed south of Philadelphia International Airport but has not been seen there since some industrial development took place in its habitat.
New Jersey birds on the list include the piping plover, a beach-nester. Despite conservation efforts, only a little more than 100 breeding pairs actively remain in the state.
Climate change is also prompting a change in forest-tree species. For example, birds such as wood thrushes, 10 percent of which depend on Pennsylvania’s forests for nesting habitat could decline.
Of the 59 “red list” species in the report, only 20 are considered threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Humans can push birds toward the dire brink or, through conservation efforts such as captive-breeding programs and habitat conservation, bring them back.
Pennsylvania is a leader in Audubon’s program to designate and protect “important bird areas.” One of the most recent, announced earlier this month, is 42,000 acres in Chester County south of Coatesville that host several species of grassland-nesting birds whose populations are decreasing.
In addition to the short-eared owl, another Pennsylvania species making the list is the cerulean warbler, which breeds in deciduous forests and used to be found along the Wissahickon in Fairmount Park, along the Delaware River in Bucks County, and at Ridley Creek State Park. No more.
If area residents use electricity generated by coal mined from mountaintops in West Virginia – a prime habitat for the warbler – they are hurting the species in the Appalachians.
The saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, which lives in the salt marshes of remote places such as the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge outside Atlantic City, is at risk from rising sea levels.
The ornithologists said several federal legislative initiatives, including the farm and energy bills being considered by Congress this fall and winter, include measures that would gradually help birds.
The researchers said responsible individuals could take action ranging from notifying public officials to yanking invasive weeds at parks. They also can plant native species in their yards and limit their contribution to global warming.