State of North America's Birds 2016

By Team eBird June 16, 2016

More than 350 migratory bird species in North America are truly trinational, splitting time in Canada, the U.S.A, and Mexico over the course of a calendar year. Birds connect the three countries of North America. And according to the recently released State of North America’s Birds 2016 report, those three countries—their governments, and their societies—need to step up and do more to preserve our continent’s spectacular and shared natural heritage of birdlife. This report is the first-ever scientific conservation assessment of all 1,154 bird species in North America, and it was only possible because of the tremendous scale and big-data capabilities of citizen-science. Tens of thousands of Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans—from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, and the tundra to the Yucatan—contributed data that was analyzed by scientists from all three countries. eBird was one of the data sources; read on to see new data visualizations and exciting maps made from your eBird sightings.

Here are a few of the takeaways from eBird maps and models:

  • The Yucatan Peninsula is one of North America’s most vital bird habitat regions. Not only is the Yucatan rich with endemic birdlife, it’s a critical wintering area for more than 120 birds species that migrate from Canada and the U.S.A. In winter, the entire population of Magnolia Warblers relies on an area of tropical forest in Mexico only 1/10 the size of its boreal forest breeding range, with the Yucatan as the bull’s-eye of their wintering range. 

  • The East and West coasts are bird migration highways. Wood Thrush and Western Tanager illustrate these migratory corridors, from temperate forests in the U.S. and Canada to eastern and western forests in Mexico.

    The Wood Thrush and Western Tanager showcase two complementary migration routes. Check out the full story for Wood Thrush and Western Tanager.

  • The Mississippi River Valley really is the middle of the continent’s duck funnel. A lot of conservation funding goes into the Mississippi Flyway, and the Blue-winged Teal demonstrates that those efforts are spot on. Precise targeting is one reason why wetland and waterfowl conservation efforts have been so successful.

And’s here’s a synopsis of the state of North America’s birds:

  • More than one-third (37%) of North American bird species are of high conservation concern and at risk of extinction without significant conservation action.
  • Seabirds and species that live in Mexican tropical forest habitats are most at risk, but there are high conservation concern species in every habitat.
  • Shorebirds and grassland birds that migrate from the Great Plans to Mexico’s Chihuahuan grasslands are showing steep and troubling population declines. Both groups have lost almost 70 percent of their continental populations since 1970.
  • Waterfowl are among the groups of birds faring relatively well, thanks in large part to the more than $4 billion generated by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act over the past two decades. NAWCA has funded conservation projects on 30 million acres of wetlands habitat in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. However, the gains in waterfowl populations will only be sustained if wetlands conservation efforts can keep up with wetlands loss. Nearly 20% of wetland birds are on the Watch List. Wetland loss has accelerated by 140% since 2004, according to the latest available trend data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • The report urges the governments and conservation groups of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico to reinvest in the conservation model that has produced solid results—the North American wetlands and waterfowl conservation model—and to duplicate that model for landbirds, seabirds, and shorebirds.
  • The report also calls on corporations (through their business operations) and citizens (through their consumer choices) to take a larger role in mitigating deforestation, development, pollution, and climate change.

John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, notes that “This report is a superb demonstration of the power of birds, and the growing power of citizen science. Tens of thousands of Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans contributed bird sightings to help produce an unprecedented continentwide assessment of North America’s birds.

“Because birds are sensitive barometers of environmental health, I encourage leaders across our three nations, in both government and industry, to consider the findings in this report, which is based on the best available science about our bird populations. Across the continent, it is the will of the people that these species and their habitats be conserved for the future.”