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Third of N. America's migratory birds at risk of extinction

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Thursday, May 19, 2016, 11:34 AM - More than one-third of all North American bird species will be at risk of extinction unless conservation action is taken, according to a new report.

The study released on Wednesday by the State of North America's Birds says that over 430 of 1,154 bird species that live in and migrate among Canada, the United States and Mexico are most at risk of extinction. Data was collected through bird surveys and counts dating back to the 1970s and scientists analyzed the information over the past year and a half.

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"More than half of species from oceans and tropical forests are on the Watch List because of small and declining populations, small ranges, and severe threats to their habitats," the report notes.

Experts predict since 1970 at least a billion birds from North America are no longer in existence.

"The trend lines are continuing down. They have to be turned around or will fall below a threshold where they can be recovered," Steven Price, president of Bird Studies Canada told CBC.

At the top of the Watch List are ocean birds including, northern gannets. These birds nest in four colonies on Canada's East Coast, but they also migrate to the Gulf of Mexico where in 2010 they were "hit very hard by the Gulf oil spill," Price added.

The study highlights that seabird populations have declined nearly 70 per cent since the 1950s, which is a "warning that our oceans are highly stressed."

Invasive predators such as rats and cats are not helping the situation as they attack nests and pose a severe threat to bird populations.

Through international efforts, predators on 200 of the most important seabird islands in Canadian, American and Mexican waters have been eradicated, according to the study.

"Continued comprehensive restoration of priority islands for breeding birds is needed as there are still many islands overrun by invasive species."

On the bright side, populations of waterfowl such as wood ducks and canvasbacks, continue to rebound due to restrictions on hunting and banning of pesticides.

The report marks the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Birds Convention. The annual meeting of the Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Managemet was held in Ottawa this week to discuss the report's findings and how to boost conservation efforts across all three countries. The committee was established in 1916 to address conservation issues.

"Canada, the United Sates and Mexico share an amazing wealth of birds. And not one of them carries a passport," federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said in a statement. "Partnerships like this allow us to 'spread our wings' beyond our own nests."

SOURCE: Report | CBC

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