State of the Birds

Whip-poor-will in tree
Michael Lindsey

Birds are important indicators of the overall health of our environment. Like the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, they send an urgent warning about threats to our water, air, natural resources, climate and more. Audubon's science team uses data from our own Christmas Bird Count along with information from other sources, including the U.S. Geological Survey's Breeding Bird Survey, to identify bird population trends - and to highlight species and habitats at risk.

Collaborative State of the Birds Reports

In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and North American Bird Conservation Initiative, of which Audubon is a member, began issuing annual State of the Birds report. Audubon is a key contributor to this important effort.

Audubon Reports on the Status of Birds

Audubon also focuses public attention on important conservation issues through our own analyses. Each report below provides a picture of how U.S. birds - both common and rare - are faring in response to mounting threats like climate change and habitat loss, and points the way to effective conservation.

Birds and Climate Change

Nearly 60 percent of the 305 relatively widely distributed species found in North America in winter are on the move, shifting their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles based on the past 40 years of citizen-science Christmas Bird Count data. Only grassland species were an exception; however, this is far from good news and instead reflects the grim reality of severely-depleted grassland habitat and suggests that these species now face a double threat from the combined stresses of habitat loss and climate adaptation. All of these findings provide new and powerful evidence that global warming is having a impact on birds, their habitat, and other wildlife. Learn more

Common Birds in Decline

Audubon's unprecedented analysis of forty years of bird population data from Christmas Bird Count and Breeding Bird Survey reveals alarming declines for many of our most common and beloved birds. Since 1967 the average population for the common birds in steepest decline has fallen 68 percent, from 17.6 million to 5.35 million. Some species have nose-dived as much as 80 percent, and all 20 birds included in the Common Birds in Decline report have lost at least 50 percent of their population - in just four decades.

Audubon WatchList

More than 800 bird species occur within the United States. With limited time and resources available to protect them, it is vital to know which species are at greatest risk. It is especially important to identify at-risk species before their populations become so small that protecting them from extinction is costly, in every sense of the word. Audubon's WatchList 2007 highlights the bird species that have the greatest conservation needs.

Habitats and Birds

This report sums up the status of 654 bird species native to the continental United States according to the country's four major types of natural habitat - grass, shrub, trees, and water. Urban, which is increasing more rapidly than any other type, is also included; the ability of birds to adapt to it has become a major factor for their survival.