Why are we losing our birds? Pollution, pesticides, chemical and oil spills, invasive nonnative plant andanimal species, collisions with man-made structures, and predation by uncontrolled cats and dogs – allthese are threats to birds in North America and Washington state.
But by far the greatest threat to birds isthe loss of their habitat from human population growth and alteration of the landscape.
Washington’s human population has more than doubled in the past 50 years, increasing from 2.4 millionpeople in 1950 to 6 million in 2000.
In the next 50 years, our population is expected to double again – theequivalent of adding 29 more cities the size of Tacoma or Spokane.
It is not just that people want houses and roads, businesses and parking lots – orthat structures and pavement and crops are replacing the forests, grasslands,and wetlands needed by our birds. It is also that our patterns of developmentare extremely destructive, as humanity sprawls across the landscape using upland at a rate faster than our population growth.Such sprawl fragments natural landscapes so that birds and otherwildlife have only small “islands” suitable for their needs. Thesetiny remnants of native lands and waters often are not sufficientto sustain viable populations of some species, because food sourcesare limited, breeding habitat is scarce, and a single natural disaster canwipe out a critical “island.” And so we lose more of our birds.
Important Bird Areas
The Important Bird Areas, or IBA, program is a worldwide effort to identify key places thatprovide essential habitat for birds and focus conservation action on protecting these sites.More than 150 countries participate in the IBA program, and Audubon is the lead organizationin the United States. We work with scientists and local volunteers to identify the sites and definethe conservation strategies, and we add the information to both the International World BirdDatabase and a national register that Audubon is constructing to help advocates and landown-ers with local conservation planning.Audubon Washington is continuing to identify sites in the state while moving into the monitor-ing and conservation-planning phase. The first 53 sites are catalogued in
Important Bird Areas of Washington
, and another 50 sites are currently being researched. In 2004 the Washington StateLegislature approved the use of recognized Important Bird Areas as part of the criteria for man-aging public land and water. IBA data are also available to private landowners so they will knowmore about their properties’ significance to birds.The IBA program helps us make decisions today that will safeguard the habitat vital to ourbirds’ future.
Birds on the Brink
Passenger Pigeon(now extinct)