Waterfowl populations increase as other birds decline

Wetland conservation is paying off big, according to a new study. The 2022 State of US Birds Report is a joint research project that was undertaken by 33 scientific and conservation organizations and wildlife management agencies. It’s the first comprehensive look at the nation’s bird populations since 2019. Researchers looked at long-term population trends of various bird species since the 1970s.

Waterfowl populations increased 18 percent since 1970, while populations of diving ducks and mallards increased 34 percent—the largest increase of any bird species. In fact, freshwater waterfowl were the only bright spot in the study, with all other bird species showing declines. Sea ducks fell 33 percent. The birds of the forest in the east and west both fell. Grassland birds declined 34 percent and “tipping point” or threatened species declined 67 percent.

graph showing species population changes
More than half of US bird species were in decline, according to the report. Endless Ducks

“While most bird species are in decline, many waterfowl populations remain healthy, thanks to decades of cooperative investment by hunters, landowners, state and federal agencies, and corporations,” said Dr. Karen Waldrop, chief conservation officer for Ducks Unlimited. “This is good news not just for birds, but for the thousands of other species that rely on wetlands and the communities that benefit from groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration and flood protection.”

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“The North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the Federal Duck Stamp Program, grants from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and regional Joint Ventures partnerships are all part of a framework that has a proven track record of restoration and protection of species dependent on wetlands,” he added. Martha Williams, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). “Now we want to use that precedent to work with our partners to restore bird populations, preserve habitat and build a foundation for how we respond to the loss of other bird groups.”

The report highlights the need to proactively protect the habitats of other bird species to prevent further declines – and to increase conservation efforts across the board. The report used five data sources to track populations, including the United States Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which relies on volunteer bird watchers and hunters to counted birds seen from December 14 to January 5. every year.

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