Life Cycle Conservation: American Bird Conservancy

ABC Expands “Full Life-Cycle” Conservation Programs for Migratory Birds

ABC is stepping up an effort to turn three iconic migratory birds into examples of how “full life-cycle” conservation programs work. The birds are the Long-billed Curlew, the Golden-winged Warbler, and the
Bicknell’s Thrush. Andrew Rothman, Director of ABC’s Migratory Bird Program, said this relatively new approach to migratory bird conservation treats international and domestic conservation efforts as two sides of the same coin.

Rothman said the Long-Billed Curlew is a good example of why full life-cycle conservation programs are needed. These shorebirds spend the breeding season in the grasslands of the northern Great Plains and Intermountain West and the nonbreeding season predominantly in the desert grasslands of northern Mexico. Over the years, the grasslands at both ends of this migration have been badly degraded by urban and suburban growth, intensive grazing and agriculture, and invasive plants.

In Mexico, ABC and Pronatura Noreste are hoping to reverse the loss of grasslands by identifying and protecting lands used by the curlew and other birds in winter. A leading showcase for these efforts is the El Tokio Grassland Priority Conservation Area near the city of Saltillo, in northeastern Mexico. Rothman said additional protected areas are now being created on communal or “ejido” lands, adding that the badly damaged grasslands in these areas are also being restored.

Meanwhile, on the curlew’s breeding grounds, ABC has hired Cheryl Mandich, a wildlife biologist who will help private and public landowners manage their properties in “curlewfriendly” ways. To guide that process, a new report on how to manage grasslands for Long-billed Curlews and other birds has been written and is now being reviewed.

“One of our goals is to see these practices adopted on a landscape scale,” said Rothman. “Having these practices used on federal lands and supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service as part of their financial assistance programs for private landowners would be a huge step toward that goal.”

The Golden-winged Warbler is another migrant that is receiving full life-cycle assistance. In North America, ABC and other groups are restoring early successional forests from the even-aged eastern forests that now dominate the warbler’s breeding grounds. In the Appalachians and Great
Lakes areas, researchers and private landowners have been restoring “young forest” openings that used to be created by beavers, small farmers, and unsuppressed fires.

See for a more detailed Golden-winged Warbler article from Bird Conservation magazine.

Rothman said a different kind of restoration is being done in some of the warbler’s wintering grounds. In Nicaragua, ABC and the owners of the El Jaguar Reserve have been reconnecting forest fragments with shade coffee plantations and reforested areas. The goal of this project is a biological corridor that will connect the forests of El Jaguar with the forests on the Yali volcano.

Bicknell’s Thrush is a new addition to ABC’s list of migratory birds receiving full life-cycle assistance. On the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola, where most of these birds winter, ABC, Grupo Jaragua, other conservation groups, and government agencies are cracking down on illegal logging and other destructive practices in protected forests used by the Bicknell’s Thrush. And in Canada, where this
thrush breeds, groups such as QuebecOiseaux and Bird Studies Canada are mapping out key habitats and working with timber companies to log in ways that are beneficial for the birds.

These examples of full life-cycle conservation implementation and many more will be discussed and advanced at the fifth Partners in Flight International Conference and Workshop scheduled from August 25-28 in Snowbird, Utah. Learn more at

In an Era Known for Bird Migration Problems, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds Are Thriving. Why?

See for an in-depth article by ABC’s John Nielsen.

Special sessions at the 5th International Partners in Flight Conference – nine in total — have something for everyone, including:  A Western Hemisphere Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for All Birds; Understanding and Overcoming the Social Challenges of Bird Conservation; and Migration Stopover and Bottlenecks for Long-distance Migrants within the Western Hemisphere. Click here for the full schedule of special sessions.

Five Bird Species Your Grandchildren May Never See, But Wish They Could
Partners in Flight Consortium Seeks Solutions to Migratory Bird Declines

Wood Thrush by Mike Parr

Scientists who have spent decades trying to reverse the broad decline of migratory birds in the Americas will converge by the hundreds later this month in Snowbird, Utah, to seek solutions to the threats migratory birds are facing at northern breeding grounds, southern wintering grounds, and numerous migration stopovers.
The pivotal August 25–28 meeting of the bird conservation partnership, Partners in Flight (PIF), will look at progress in the struggle to conserve critical habitats, launch new conservation efforts, and form new alliances to conserve birds throughout the Americas. The meeting includes members of over 100 organizations from 16 countries across North, Central, and South America.
George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, says the coming meeting could affect the fate of several of the most rapidly declining migratory bird species found in the Western Hemisphere. “The stakes are quite high,” said Fenwick. “Many migratory birds are far less common than they were in the early 1990s, when the effort to reverse these broad declines was launched.”
Fenwick says a number of new conservation measures could be launched or developed at the PIF V meeting. If they aren’t, Fenwick said, the outlook for migratory bird species will darken, such as for these five that face significant challenges to long-term survival:
Cerulean Warbler: A blue and white bird so dazzling that it has been called a “flying piece of sky.” It is also the most rapidly declining warbler in the Americas. Breeding bird surveys say that the number of Ceruleans fell by 70 percent from 1966 to 1996. In the Appalachian Mountains, long a breeding stronghold of the species, large amounts of prime Cerulean habitat have been destroyed or fragmented. Unfortunately, Cerulean habitat in mountain forests has been heavily logged and converted to agriculture.
Wood Thrush: A bird best known for what the writer Henry David Thoreau described as its “ethereal” song. Since the 1960s, the Wood Thrush population is estimated to have fallen by 62 percent, from 13 million to about 5 million. This bird faces threats to its forest habitat on both its breeding grounds in eastern North America and on wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America.
Long-billed Curlew: A large, loud, iconic shorebird that once ranged from west of the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. In the late 1800s, market hunters all but wiped them out. This species is most threatened by rapid loss of grasslands on both its breeding and wintering grounds. For example, in Chihuahua, Mexico, where many of these birds winter, over a million acres of grasslands have been replaced by irrigated farms since 2005.
Upland Sandpiper: A foot-tall grassland bird that announces its arrival at its northern breeding grounds with a call said to resemble a “wolf whistle.” Stories have been told of flocks so large during the late 1800s that it could take an hour for a single group of “Uppies” to pass overhead. But commercial hunters killed them by the trainload in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In addition, the continental population of Upland Sandpipers never recovered due to habitat loss from the widespread conversion of grasslands into overly grazed ranches and large farms.
Kirtland’s Warbler: A species that was down to only 167 singing males as recently as 1987. Today, this bird’s population has grown 15-fold, and there is hope that the species will avoid extinction. Kirtland’s Warblers breed only in specialized habitat of young jack pines. Once these trees grow too big, the warblers leave in search of another stand of young jack pines, which grow in the wake of a forest fire. Breeding Kirtland’s Warblers are only found in Michigan in the northern Lower Peninsula and in small numbers in the Upper Peninsula—one of the smallest breeding ranges of any North American bird species. The species winters mostly in the Bahamas. Keeping the Kirtland’s Warbler population recovery going will depend on the continuing success of current programs to create young jack pine forests and reduce nest-raiding by Brown-headed Cowbirds.
“The most important aspect of the Partners in Flight meeting will be our focus on the full annual life-cycle of these long-distance travelers,” said Ken Rosenberg, a conservation scientist at Cornell Lab of Ornithology and a leader in the PIF initiative. “The actions proposed at the international gathering will affect habitats on these species’ tropical wintering grounds as well as their breeding habitats in North America.” He added that meeting participants will develop conservation strategies focusing on eight geographically based work sessions.
Terrell D. Rich, Partners in Flight National Coordinator, says that effective bird conservation has got to involve more than just the scientific community. “It’s critical that scientists find a way to mobilize the many millions of people who watch and feed birds to become active in bird conservation. We really, really need their help.”
“Many of these species need us to take action, now, but the simple truth is that people need them just as much, and probably much more. They are our guardians. Without them, we are lost,” said Tom Will, Wildlife Biologist and Partners in Flight Coordinator for the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

To be removed from the list, send any message to:

Steve Holmer
Senior Policy Advisor
American Bird Conservancy &
Director, Bird Conservation Alliance
202-234-7181 ext. 216
Skype: sholmerabc

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