[chapter-communicator] Audubon Releases WatchList 2002

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To:
  • Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002 12:54:32 -0400

Contact: John Bianchi


'Audubon WatchList 2002' Names 201 Birds in Jeopardy;
Represents More than One-quarter of North American Species

New York, NY, Wednesday, October 23, 2002- Despite the exciting recovery of
Endangered birds like the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon, more than
one-quarter of America's birds are in trouble or decline, according to the
National Audubon Society.  In a report released today, entitled "WatchList
2002", Audubon identifies 201 species that show either significantly
decreasing numbers or restricted range, or are under other threats.

"Audubon WatchList 2002 is a warning system that shows us where to focus our
attention and resources if we want to help the survival of a vast number of
bird species," says Frank Gill, Audubon's chief ornithologist and senior
vice president for science, and author of the comprehensive reference, Birds
of North America.  "It is also a powerful tool that policy-makers,
businesses, and the general public can use now to take positive conservation

Based on a stoplight model, WatchList places selected bird species in green,
yellow, or red categories, depending on the danger they face.  A centerpiece
of conservation efforts at Audubon, the WatchList aims to halt the declines
of America's birds and to rebuild their populations to healthy, green-light

WatchList serves to underscore some disturbing trends; since 1970, many
songbird species have declined by as much as 50 percent or more.  The
California Thrasher and the southeast's Painted Bunting both show declines
in excess of 50 percent, while the Cerulean Warbler of the eastern U.S. has
declined by more than 70 percent and the Henslow's Sparrow from the Midwest
has dangerously dropped by 80 percent.  The Hawaiian 'Akikiki from Kauai has
dropped from about 6,800 birds in the early 70's to only 1,000 individuals

Ironically, these declines come at a time when bird watching is hitting an
all-time high in popularity; the National Survey on Recreation and the
Environment tallies 71 million Americans participating in 2001, up 250
percent from 1982, making birding the fastest-growing outdoor activity in
the U.S.  And, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Americans
spent $40 billion on wildlife watching in 2001, up steadily from $30 billion
in 1996 and $21 billion in 1991.

"WatchList is preventative medicine," continued Gill.  "It will be used
first and foremost to enlist federal, state, and local governments to focus
their resources towards protecting these birds before they become endangered
or threatened - when they would demand more serious action and major
taxpayer support to recover."

Audubon WatchList is a unique project that filters information on bird
populations compiled by field scientists in the U.S. and overseas.  The
final product recognizes three levels of concern:

RED - Species in this category of global conservation concern are declining
rapidly, have very small populations or limited ranges, and face major
conservation threats.  Audubon identifies several red-listed species as
probable candidates for inclusion on the Federal Endangered or Threatened
Species Lists.

YELLOW: Category includes the majority of species identified.  Yellow-list
birds are declining, but at slower rates than those in the red category.
These typically are birds of national conservation concern, and those that
can be saved most cost-effectively.

GREEN: species in this category are not declining, have unknown trends, or
have very large population sizes.  These species are not included on the
Audubon WatchList. 

For the first time in 2002, the Audubon WatchList includes birds of Hawaii
and Puerto Rico, in addition to the birds of mainland North America.

"The reasons for identifying species on the WatchList is not entirely
altruistic," concluded Gill.  "Like the proverbial canary in the coalmine,
birds are primary indicators of environmental health, and what hurts birds
also hurts the people who share the same space.  We should in no way take
WatchList birds for granted; we should rather listen to what their declines
are telling us about the ecosystems we both inhabit."

Methodology used in the WatchList was developed in conjunction with Partners
in Flight, a coalition of North American ornithological groups of which
Audubon is a leading member.  Bird Life International developed global
methodology; Audubon is the U.S. partner designate for BLI.

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat
that supports them.  Our national network of community-based Audubon nature
centers and chapters, environmental education programs, and advocacy on
behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of
people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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