This document summarizes actions needed to conserve North American birds. It provides both an outline of Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) activities and a general blueprint within which other agencies and private organizations can develop their roles in bird conservation. The document also provides a tool for legislators and administrators to compare current or planned work with that essential to conserve our avifauna.


Of over 9,000 species of birds in the world, 12 to 15 percent occur in the United States and its possessions. These birds play important roles in natural ecosystems and provide recreation to millions of citizens who watch them or entice them to backyard bird feeders.

Many changes in bird distribution and abundance have occurred since European settlement of North America. Most of the changes resulted from either widespread or drastic alteration of natural landscapes related to human enterprise, including urbanization, industrialization, related development, intensified agriculture, and contaminants.

To assure the perpetuation of birds in the face of these changes, the Federal government has been assigned specific responsibility for their protection by various laws (Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1980, Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, Migratory Bird Conservation Act, Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, Lea Act, and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, among others) and treaties (for example: migratory bird treaties with Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the Soviet Union; the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere; and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The provisions of these laws and treaties are carried out primarily by the Service.

Seven percent of the 836 avian species occurring in the continental United States are hunted and are therefore classified as game birds. The remaining 778 species, often referred to as nongame birds, are not legally hunted as game. Both Federal and State wildlife agencies have developed considerable research and management programs to maintain populations of game species at levels that can sustain hunting pressure. Nongame bird research and management efforts have not been funded comparably. Consequently, this document is directed at conserving the nongame species for which no comprehensive program previously existed.

The Service published a draft document, Nongame Bird Strategies, in May, 1988, in response to Congressional interest in nongame species. The document summarized Service objectives and tasks with respect to these birds in the near (5 year) future and was made available to the public for review and comment. Subsequent amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1980 (Public Law 100-653) passed November 14, 1988, required specific actions to conserve nongame birds: monitoring and assessing population trends and status of species, subspecies, and populations of all nongame birds; identifying effects of environmental changes and human activities on these; identifying the species, subspecies, and populations of nongame birds that are likely to become endangered without additional conservation measures; and identifying conservation actions to assure that those identified do not reach the point of becoming endangered. Reports to Congress were required by November 14, 1989, and at five-year intervals thereafter. These requirements significantly expand the responsibilities of the Service relative to conserving the current diversity of nongame bird species.

The draft Nongame Bird Strategies has been revised here to comply with the legislation, which directs the Secretary of the Interior to coordinate with other Federal, State, international, and private organizations to fulfill his responsibilities to conserve migratory nongame birds. Activities described therefore include not only those conducted by the Service as the primary Federal agency charged with nongame bird protection, but also those of other government agencies and private organizations. This overview provides a framework within which these agencies and organizations can develop their roles and cooperate toward attaining the overall goal of conservation of avian diversity in North America. Activities are described broadly to permit innovative private organizations and other agencies to fill remaining gaps and to provide flexibility for incorporating other potential conservation measures. Close cooperation of all concerned is essential, since funding available at individual agencies or organizations for nongame bird conservation is insufficient to accomplish all of the actions needed.

Federal agencies and private organizations participated in this revision. Comments received on the 1988 draft were also incorporated. Other agencies and organizations, as well as the public, will be solicited as partners in future development of conservation strategies.


Prior to Fiscal Year 1988, the Service designated limited funds for nongame bird research and management activities, including inventories, related research, permit reviews, Federal Aid and Extension Education projects, international coordination, contaminants assessments, and coordination with State agencies and other organizations. Beginning in Fiscal Year 1988, Congress provided a $1 million add-on to the Service's budget for migratory nongame birds, to be allocated equally between research and management. A similar amount was provided in Fiscal Years 1989 and 1990, except that a portion of the management amount could be used on nongame species other than birds.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1980 recognized the many values of nongame wildlife and the need to plan for and manage nongame wildlife resources. This Act called for Federal funds to be provided for development of conservation plans and certain conservation actions benefitting nongame. The Act also required the Service to review potential sources of funding to implement the legislation. However, Fiscal restraints precluded funding this Act and Congress did not support any of the outside funding sources covered in the required review. As a result, provisions relying on additional funds were not implemented.

The 1988 Amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1980 (Public Law 100-653) do not address funding, yet require specific Federal conservation activities. These requirements significantly expand the responsibilities of the Service relative to nongame birds.

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A goal of the Service is to conserve avian diversity in North America. This includes maintaining populations of all native bird species and their essential habitats at reasonable levels, preventing any of these species from having to be listed as Endangered or Threatened, and ensuring continued opportunities for people to enjoy these birds.


Conservation of avian diversity can be achieved by fulfilling four objectives that coincide with the four requirements for Federal conservation of migratory nongame birds listed in Public Law 100-653, Section 13. The law specifically requires the Secretary, in coordination with other Federal, State, international and private organizations, to do the following to conserve migratory nongame birds:

1. monitor and assess population trends and status of species, subspecies, and populations of all migratory nongame birds;

2. identify the effects of environmental changes and human activities on species, subspecies, and populations of all migratory nongame birds;

3. identify species, subspecies, and populations of all migratory nongame birds that, without additional conservation actions, are likely to become candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended;

4. identify conservation actions to assure that species, subspecies, and populations of migratory nongame birds identified under paragraph 3 do not reach the point at which the measures provided pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, become necessary.

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Various activities could be conducted to fulfill each of the four objectives. However, since economic reality will ultimately determine the funds available for avian conservation, certain general approaches, listed here, have been adopted by the Service to assure that the most cost effective activities are used to accomplish each of the four objectives. Other agencies and organizations could likewise use some of these approaches to maximize the conservation benefits to nongame birds from limited expenditures.

1. Coordinate monitoring, research, species evaluations, and conservation efforts with Federal land management agencies, State and local agencies, and nongovernmental organizations in the United States and in other countries sharing our birds, to minimize duplication of effort. Service personnel in each region and in the Washington office will be needed to facilitate coordination.

2. Use the best data currently available for monitoring, identifying species of concern, and implementing conservation actions.

3. Initiate or continue monitoring or research projects that are essential to conserve species and defensible scientifically. Early detection of problems is important.

4. Distinguish incidental species, subspecies, and populations with primary occurrence elsewhere from those that have significant presence in the United States during breeding or wintering seasons or during migration. Concentrate efforts on species for which U.S. territory is essential during one or more phases of the life cycle.

5. Identify species for which there is inadequate information on population status and trends. Initiate monitoring and research to fill those gaps.

6. Improve survey techniques and coverage so that trends can be credibly estimated at 5-year intervals.

7. Develop adequate surveys and research first for species with specialized, restricted, or threatened habitats; strong public concern or support; perceived or actual population declines; presumed or known small population sizes; or perceived threats to survival or reproduction. Indicator species representative of guilds or distinct ecological habitat types will be used as appropriate. Sedentary, resident species that are less plastic and more specific in habitat selection may be particularly useful as indicators.

8. Concentrate monitoring and research on North American migratory bird species, with Service scientists working primarily at North American sites.

9. Direct Federal support at identifying and mitigating adverse habitat or population changes in the United States.

10. Address changes in other countries, including those in the neotropics, through cooperative research, training and management efforts with agencies in these countries and with private organizations. The Service will provide limited assistance to local scientists at Latin American sites, as funds permit.

11. Use qualified volunteers wherever possible to gather essential field information, or to work with data management and analysis.

12. Collect information on habitat, land use and human impacts in addition to bird population monitoring data to guide research into causes of population changes. Focus research on habitat, land use, contaminants, interactions with increasing species, and other human impacts on bird populations.

13. Identify essential habitats and encourage protection and proper management of these habitats. Coordinate information, purchase, and management of lands among government agencies and private organizations.

14. Summarize, evaluate, and publish results.

15. Explore alternate funding sources for high priority projects with cooperating agencies and private organizations.

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Nongame bird populations need to be monitored regularly to establish natural short-term fluctuations, determine long-term trends, and identify population responses to natural or human-induced environmental perturbations. An adequate national monitoring program for all taxonomic groups of birds is needed.

A considerable amount of monitoring is already being conducted by Federal, State, and private agencies. Current programs range from formal surveys using standardized techniques to informal data gathering not originally designed for monitoring. Volunteers are used extensively to conduct the field work. However, current monitoring is not sufficient to comply with the direction of Public Law 100-653 to monitor all species of migratory nongame birds.

All existing survey data bases need to be identified, evaluated for scientific value and for taxonomic, geographic, and temporal coverage, and improved if necessary. Species now surveyed inadequately or not at all need to be appropriately censused. Species specific surveys may be needed in cases where general survey techniques do not provide adequate data. Supplemental information, such as productivity, may need to be monitored to determine causes of trends, if this information is not available in existing databases. Data gathered from all surveys needs to be computerized in easily retrievable format, properly and regularly analyzed, and the results synthesized with the results of other data bases. Centralized data storage could make information more readily accessible to various users.

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Coordination of monitoring activities, cooperation among agencies in collection, consolidation and dissemination of data, and synthesis of results are essential to adequately monitor all nongame species at the lowest cost. The Service will serve as coordinator of nongame monitoring projects among interested agencies and encourage projects that are complementary without duplication of effort. Projects should provide essential information; be appropriately designed; and be available electronically in easily retrievable format. Where additional surveys are essential to monitor all species, the Service will coordinate the design of these surveys and analysis of the data collected, but volunteers, private organizations, and other agencies will be relied on for conducting surveys. The Service is the appropriate repository for a comprehensive information base of nongame bird monitoring, although the cost of managing such a database presently exceeds Service resources available for it. Consequently, only those surveys or data sources that are truly effective in responding to the required monitoring will be considered by the Service for technical or logistical support. Supplemental information that may be needed to determine the effects of environmental changes and human activities; to identify species likely to become candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act; or to focus conservation activities is described under those objectives.


To achieve the goal of adequate monitoring for all species, the Service will evaluate current sources of survey information (listed below), select those that most efficiently and effectively provide the needed information, and assure that critical data gaps are filled by modifying existing surveys or by developing necessary new ones. Surveys will be run frequently enough to produce reliable trend information. Those not conducted annually may be alternated with surveys having different coverage. An analysis will be required indicating which species require monitoring during the breeding season, migration, and winter; which species are currently monitored adequately; and by what method. New surveys will be created to fill the survey gaps identified. Special emphasis will be on monitoring species occupying habitat types, such as interior forests or wetlands, that are poorly represented in current surveys.

Breeding Bird Survey

The Breeding Bird Survey, conducted annually since 1966 by volunteers and managed by the Service, provides the best single source of information on population trends of nongame birds. The survey consists of 3,000 established 24.5-mile roadside routes with 50 3-minute counts at half-mile intervals. Approximately two-thirds of these routes are run annually. The lack of qualified personnel in sparsely populated western and far-northern areas precludes annual survey of the remaining routes. Survey routes are run during the breeding season, June throughout most of North America. Useful information is obtained on some 370 species. The Service will continue to conduct the Breeding Bird Survey annually, edit data and enter it into a database, update population indices regularly, and recalculate trend estimates periodically (2-year intervals). The Service will also evaluate potential modifications of the survey design to improve coverage and accuracy, such as whether Breeding Bird Survey stops sample interior forest or other habitats in proportion to their occurrence in the United States. More routes will be considered on Federal lands to serve as controls for evaluating the effects of environmental changes on nongame bird populations. Because the Breeding Bird Survey provides continuous coverage since 1966, supplementing the Survey with additional information could generally be more valuable than modifying it. For example, supplementing the BBS with new routes in the west would increase its coverage and sample size and would result in additional species being more efficiently monitored. Potential benefits, problems, and logistics of supplementing the Survey with activities to collect relevant data on habitat and productivity will be considered, where these do not confuse the basic intent of monitoring or use more of the limited funding than warranted by their contribution.

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Breeding Bird Atlas Projects

Breeding Bird Atlases do not monitor species continuously but do provide information useful for documenting range expansions or contractions, identifying important habitats for land-use planning, and determining the effects of human activities on bird distributions. Atlases are particularly useful in documenting the locations of rare species and associated habitat. Costs are one-time or at most infrequent. Atlas projects have been started or completed in 29 States, sponsored or coordinated by State agencies and private organizations. Other atlas projects will continue to be sponsored by States or concerned private organizations. The Service provides limited support to Atlas projects (assisting with data collection, editing, publishing).

Colonial Waterbird Surveys

The Service monitors colonial waterbird breeding populations (seabirds, shorebirds, waders, and other coastal species) at an intensity sufficient to detect significant population changes on Service lands, most importantly at the following refuges: Alaska Maritime, Hawaiian and Pacific Islands, San Francisco Bay, Farallon, and Oregon and Washington coastal refuges. These surveys are needed at approximately five-year intervals on lands that support colonial breeding waterbirds. Localities on the Great Lakes and on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts that support colonial waterbirds but that are not currently monitored also need to be monitored at five-year intervals. Highly variable populations, such as high latitude seabirds, or populations particularly vulnerable to a variety of threats may warrant more frequent monitoring.

International Shorebird Survey

The Manomet Bird Observatory administers this survey by coordinating a network of observers at important shorebird migration stopover sites, primarily in the eastern United States. Originally designed to provide information on distribution patterns, this survey has been used for monitoring shorebird populations during migration. Expansion of the survey to include important sites, particularly in the west, that are not now monitored is necessary for the survey to become the key way of monitoring shorebirds, since this group is not covered adequately by other surveys. The Service manages some of the shorebird migration sites and will work with Manomet to improve and expand the survey.

Hawk Migration Surveys

Hawk migration counts are conducted at migration sites throughout the U.S. under sponsorship of the Hawk Migration Association of North America and various other private organizations. These counts are needed regularly at areas used during raptor migration. Additional raptor migration paths are not currently monitored and need to be monitored in the future. The Service will work with private organizations and other agencies to improve and expand raptor migration surveys and to standardize data bases to facilitate storage and analysis of data.

Breeding Bird Census

The Breeding Bird Census, conducted annually since 1937 by hundreds of volunteers, is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and managed by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The Breeding Bird Census consists of spot-map censuses of uniform plots of land, usually between 25 and 50 acres in area. It provides information on bird-habitat relationships and community dynamics during the breeding season. Interest and participation in the Breeding Bird Census fell dramatically in the mid-1980's when the National Audubon Society stopped publishing the results in American Birds. Publication of the results resumed in 1989 as a supplement to the Journal of Field Ornithology.

Christmas Bird Counts

Christmas Bird Counts have been conducted annually since 1900 by thousands of volunteers. The counts are sponsored by the National Audubon Society, and the data base is currently maintained by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. It is a potential source of data on population trends of nongame birds, especially for species not adequately covered by the Breeding Bird Survey. Cooperators need to improve the statistical validity of the data base and make it accessible to and compatible with other monitoring efforts. The Service will continue to support the endeavor by conducting counts on selected National Wildlife Refuges and by periodic analysis and interpretation of Christmas Bird Count population trends for selected species.

Winter Bird Population Studies

The Winter Bird Population Study, conducted annually since 1948 by hundreds of volunteers, is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and managed by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. It provides information on bird-habitat relationships and community dynamics during the winter season. Interest and participation in this study fell dramatically when the National Audubon Society ceased publishing the results in American Birds. Publication of the studies resumed in 1989 as a supplement to the Journal of Field Ornithology.

Surveys on Federal Lands

Certain Federal lands, including national wildlife refuges and national parks, and other protected areas have relatively stable land uses and could serve as benchmarks against which to compare population trends on other lands. Systematic, standardized surveys will be developed to improve information available for nongame migratory birds on these lands. Such surveys, conducted by trained personnel or qualified volunteers, could augment existing data bases substantially and also help managers establish quantifiable objectives for nongame birds.

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Although not currently used as a monitoring program, the Service's Bird Banding Laboratory is in possession of huge amounts of data and is a potentially valuable source of information. The Bird Banding Laboratory authorizes and monitors all banding of migratory birds. The Bird Banding Laboratory has 2,500 master banding permittees. Of these, 93.5% band nongame birds, either exclusively (49%) or along with game birds (44.5%). Over one million birds are banded annually, of which 70% are nongame. Eventually, 50,000 of the bands used annually are encountered, 25% of which are nongame. Since 47 million birds have been banded and 2.6 million encounters reported, the Service is evaluating the operation of the Bird Banding Laboratory with the intent of focusing its activities on conservation needs. Outside agencies and organizations involved in bird banding met with the Service in January, 1990, to help the Service determine the direction of activities occurring under the Bird Banding Laboratory and allocate limited funds to obtain data essential to the conservation of nongame birds. Special consideration will be given to alter natives that improve efficiency, as well as the effectiveness, of the lab's operation.


The Service will continue to evaluate existing monitoring programs and to improve the effectiveness of survey techniques and statistical analyses in detecting population changes. The Service will also cooperate with other researchers to develop new approaches for species not currently monitored adequately. Special emphasis will be placed on developing rapid, uniform survey techniques for species with habitats that are restricted or poorly represented in current surveys, and on closing gaps in geographic coverage for more ubiquitous species.

The Service will continue to address questions about geographic distributions and systematic relation ships of North American birds, where necessary, to respond to the major objectives set forth for the conservation of these species. Special emphasis will be placed on poorly known wintering distributions. Systematic relationships will be addressed as necessary to provide information upon which to base management actions to prevent decline of populations.

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Monitoring provides information on current population status of the species concerned and also, when the monitoring is continued over time, a basis for evaluating population trends. Increasing or decreasing population trends detected by monitoring are often the result of environmental changes and human activities on the species and can be used to identify sensitive or vulnerable species. Research is employed to determine both the causal agents responsible for the observed population trends and the effects of changes in the causal agents on the population's status or trends.

Both public and private sectors conduct research to identify causes of observed trends in migratory bird species. Once basic information on life history parameters is available, research into the effects of environmental changes and human activities on nongame bird species is often directed at those species in most immediate or critical need. Additional research is needed into effects on species or groups of species (communities) prior to serious declines or problems. Appropriate multiple species or system projects should be used to maximize the applicability of results. The Service needs to facilitate coordination and cooperation among various researchers in other Federal and State agencies, universities, and private organizations to ensure that research concentrates on priority needs and avoids duplication of projects.

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Significant information is already available, published or unpublished, that could be compiled and synthesized to permit identification of factors limiting many species. The Service used such an approach in one region to prepare status reports for 14 species of management concern. Other regions will be encouraged to use this approach to address species of concern.


Remote sensing and other existing sources contain potentially valuable information on habitat and land use changes at local, regional, and continental levels. The Service will review likely sources of available data to determine if information can be extracted in the proper form to indicate trends in habitat availability and to provide a basis against which to compare future changes in distribution and abundance of avian species.

The Service will also continue or initiate studies aimed at determining cause and effect relationships between changes in habitat quality, or availability, and in avian populations. Studies will be designed to indicate to managers the causes of population changes and management actions effective against certain changes.

Service studies will focus on priority habitats and interacting perturbations, and use multiple species approaches for broad applicability. Particular emphasis will be on the effects of habitat fragmentation, impacts of agricultural practices, changes in wetlands and riparian habitats used by nongame species, interactions with pest species, effects of contaminants, and the effectiveness of various management practices, such as wetland manipulation or prescribed burning. Impacts of urbanization on bird communities will also be addressed.


Populations may be adversely affected by threats other than land use changes. Research may be required on food habits, predator or prey populations, disease, pollution, or certain life history parameters to determine the cause of population declines. Impact of human activity, such as increase in recreational use of an area required for nesting, may also need to be evaluated.


Certain Federal, or other protected lands, have relatively stable land uses and could serve as controls against which to compare effects of habitat changes on population trends on other lands. A pilot project begun in 1989 established BBS routes as controls on several national parks having a road based system of appropriate length and someone available to run the survey. The Service will conduct an interagency review of other Federal lands with respect to their potential role in evaluating such effects. The Service will work in cooperation with other agencies, private organizations, and volunteers to assess what is needed in terms of field work and analysis, and to implement an appropriate effort.

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Preventing species from being depleted to the point that implementation of the Endangered Species Act becomes necessary is advantageous in terms of both lower cost of management and higher likelihood of species recovery. Data on population status and trends obtained under Objective 1 can be used in conjunction with information on effects of environmental changes and human activities detected under Objective 2 to identify species, subspecies, or populations likely to become candidates for listing if additional conservation measures are not implemented.

As can be seen in the summary of current lists below, considerable effort has already been expended to identify species at risk of declining to the point that provisions of the Endangered Species Act must be applied. The lists already being developed periodically are probably sufficient to identify species at risk of declining to the point that provisions of the Endangered Species Act must be applied. Better monitoring data are needed for some species, and additional research is needed on effects of environmental changes and human activities, to produce more accurate lists. In addition, improved coordination among State, Federal, and private organizations producing such lists would improve the ability of the lists to accurately identify species in the most immediate need of research or management assistance. Lists produced by various agencies and organizations will probably continue to vary slightly, due to the different criteria used and the scope of the list. However, duplication of data collection and review can probably be minimized.

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The Office of Migratory Bird Management has published two lists, one in 1982 and a revision in 1987, of nongame migratory bird species that, without additional conservation actions, likely would become candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act. This list will be revised on a regular basis and will fulfill Objective 3, provided that all species are monitored and environmental effects are identified. Somewhat similar lists compiled by other divisions, agencies, or organizations are aimed at different goals. These are summarized after the essential list directly addressing Objective 3. Coordination among groups producing lists will focus the lists on species of most concern and reduce the overall cost of producing any one of the overlapping lists.


"Migratory Nongame Birds of Management Concern in the United States: the 1987 List "

The 1987 list reviewed the best information available on the status and population trends of nongame birds. It identified those species of management concern because of documented or apparent population declines; small or restricted populations; or dependence on restricted or vulnerable habitat. This document, used to help focus attention on those species or populations most in need of management attention, will be revised on a regular five year schedule. However, future revisions will be based on fulfilling the requirements of the Act.

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List of Migratory Birds Covered by Treaties

Although not limited to migratory species of concern, this list identifies all species of birds for which the Service has authority under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and thus is the basis for identifying the species of concern. The list must be accurate and current and is updated periodically to reflect new distributional records and changes in nomenclature and taxonomy.

Birds to Watch

This list, published periodically under various titles by the International Council for Bird Preservation, includes bird species of concern worldwide. The Service will work with the contributors to this list, as appropriate, regarding North American species to assure that best available data are used and to reduce duplication of effort.

Endangered and Threatened Species Animal Notice of Review

The most recent Notice of Review identifying animal species being considered for listing as endangered or threatened was published in the Federal Register on January 6, 1989. Category 1 species have sufficient information to support their listing; category 2 need additional data; category 3 are not being considered for various reasons. Provisions for listing under the Endangered Species Act differ from the requirements of the 1988 Amendment to the Nongame Act. Therefore, bird species listed in the Animal Notice of Review may not be identical to those listed as nongame bird species of management concern. However, Service Offices of Migratory Bird Management and Endangered Species will work together on future revisions of these lists to reduce duplication of effort and to assure that best available data are used comparably in developing the lists to meet their respective criteria.

Regional Lists

Prioritized lists of nongame bird species of concern are prepared periodically for each Service region. Regional lists consider the status and numerical abundance of species in each region, in contrast to the national list, which considers species status nationwide. Regional lists contribute to the national effort and may also be used to coordinate Federal and State nongame bird programs. Future revisions to regional lists should be based on adequate monitoring of all species and best available data for assessment of environmental effects to be both cost-effective and compatible with the national list. Future regional lists will be particularly important in addressing local subspecies and populations in response to the requirements of the 1988 Amendments.

State Lists

States compile lists of endangered, threatened, peripheral, sensitive or other species of concern within State boundaries. These State lists are considered in evaluating species of concern nationally, and, conversely, States consider Federal lists in compiling State lists. As with regional lists, State lists can be particularly useful for the focus they provide on subspecies and population status.

Natural Heritage Lists

The Nature Conservancy maintains a computer file containing information on all species of migratory birds included in the Natural Heritage Program data base. This file has status categories for each species in each of the participating States and a global category for the species' status throughout its range.


The Service will conduct selected investigations, where useful, to develop or confirm the list of species of management concern. This research will aim to develop knowledge to predict the impacts of changes in distribution or abundance on the viability of populations. Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors responsible for declines will be investigated, particularly factors linking habitat change, distribution and abundance, and the ultimate viability of populations. Research may also be needed to determined demographic indicators useful in predicting the likelihood that a species will become threatened. Emphasis will be on species with populations documented to be declining.

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Once censuses have determined population status and trends and research has identified the effects of environmental changes and human activities on species, subspecies, and populations of migratory nongame birds, conservation actions can be identified and taken to address the problems confronting these species.


The following list summarizes broad categories of conservation activities believed necessary to assure perpetuation of migratory bird species: preserving essential habitat, employing legal and administrative mandates related to conservation of these species, and encouraging public participation. Some of the specific activities discussed, such as preserving or managing habitat, contribute more obviously to the immediate protection of migratory birds than other activities, such as providing public education or recreation opportunities. However, all of these activities are essential over the long term to maintain public interest in the perpetuation of these species.

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The goal of maintaining or restoring migratory bird populations, particularly those that are vulnerable or sensitive, cannot be achieved without adequate habitat continuing to be available to support these populations. Although there may be debate among biogeographers about the optimum size, shape, and dispersion of conservation lands required for achieving goals, there is no question that appropriate habitat must be available.

Identity and Rank Habitat

Habitats, ecosystems, and biogeographic areas essential for maintaining populations of species of concern need to be identified. This is already in progress for some species groups. For example, the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network has identified areas of hemispheric or regional importance to shorebirds and has been working with landowners to designate these areas as shorebird reserves.

Predict Impacts of Land Use Trends

Where data exist to permit identification of significant land use trends and probable results of these trends, the Service will provide information on projected impacts on nongame birds and urban wildlife for use in State and local planning. The Service will concentrate on identifying type, location, number, size, and distribution of habitats necessary to maintain those nongame bird species that cannot survive in human-dominated environments.

Evaluate the Adequacy of Existing Conservation Lands

Known distribution and habitat requirements of migratory bird species need to be plotted against the geographic dispersion of existing Federal, State, and private conservation lands to assess what proportion of each species range is being protected.

Acquire or Protect Essential Habitat

Once current protection levels for species are known, future land acquisition or protection may be directed to provide a more effective mosaic of conservation areas. Coordination of Federal, State, and local government land acquisition, easement zoning, or other land protection programs will help assure that these programs efficiently provide for nongame species. The Service will review existing authorities to determine its ability to preserve currently unprotected migratory bird habitat. The Service Land Acquisition Priority System (LAPS) will also be evaluated to assure that habitat needs of nongame migratory birds are adequately addressed under the system.

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Service lands should be managed to benefit all migratory birds. Since any given management practice is likely to benefit some species at the detriment of others, habitat alterations and other management practices require thorough analysis of the impacts on all species and an assessment of alternatives. Conflicts will be resolved on the basis of Service objectives for the field station or system. The environmental impact statement for the national wildlife refuge system will include planning guidance to assure appropriate consideration of species diversity throughout the system. Other Federal, State, and private agencies will also be encouraged to manage their lands for nongame birds without compromising other important objectives these agencies may have for the land. The Service will work with these agencies to maintain reasonable abundance of nongame bird species, and will provide information and guidance, as appropriate.

Research related to management studies will be conducted, as necessary, to evaluate the effectiveness of management efforts; to determine the optimum composition and configuration of habitat for conservation of all nongame species; to develop new approaches for conserving and enhancing nongame populations; and to expand the usefulness of rapid large-scale habitat censusing techniques for evaluating conservation actions. Specific threats, such as exotic predators or competitors on islands, may need to be removed or controlled.

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The vast majority (93%) of the birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are nongame species. Legislation and international treaties assign responsibility for these species to the Federal government, yet require coordination with other agencies and organizations. Legal mandates include enforcing specific laws and fulfilling generally legislated responsibilities, many of which, such as coordination with other agencies and organizations, are administrative in nature.

Enforce Specific Laws

The Service will continue to use all legal authorities at its disposal (e.g., Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1980, Endangered Species Act of 1973, Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act) to minimize or prevent disturbance or destruction of nongame birds and degradation of their habitats. Mitigation and the closely related concepts of enhancement, compensation, and replacement, will continue to be employed regularly at Service field stations to prevent or minimize losses of nongame birds and their habitats. Field personnel in different Service divisions conducting permit reviews under these authorities, including those required by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977, and Sections 7 and 10 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, should adequately consider nongame birds during these reviews. Habitat protection objectives for nongame species will be developed and distributed to ecological services field stations as guidance. Collection permits will be reviewed to determine the cumulative impact of collection activities on nongame birds. The process for issuing collection permits and other activities potentially contributing to incidental take will be evaluated.

Develop Federal Agency Coordination

Federal government agencies control approximately one-third of the land in the United States. Four of these agencies (Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Forest Service) combined manage nearly a billion acres. The Service proposes to establish and lead an informal Interagency Working Group to encourage management of significant Federal lands to conserve avian diversity. As part of this interagency effort, the Service will develop and work with other agencies to implement a mechanism for coordinating issues related to nongame birds; a combined censusing and mapping effort for nongame bird distribution in relation to Federal lands; a program to encourage increased emphasis on nongame bird use of Federal lands; and a cooperative interpretive program for appreciation of the importance of these lands to birds.

Encourage State and Local Government Coordination

State and local government agencies affect nongame bird species through zoning, park and other lands acquisition and management, road construction, and other activities. Many States have already initiated progressive nongame and urban wildlife programs and have developed separate funding mechanisms for these activities. The Service will work with these agencies to develop and implement a mechanism for coordinating issues related to nongame birds; reduce duplication of effort among different areas and levels of government by providing information to them; census and map nongame bird distribution in relation to urban areas to provide a basis for land use planning and zoning; encourage increased emphasis on nongame bird needs in State and local planning; and to locate funding for cooperative efforts.

Cooperate with Private Organizations

The Service will work with private organizations to conserve birds. Specifically, the Service will try to involve nongovernmental organizations in planning and executing conservation oriented actions through soliciting comments on written plans, inviting technical and scientific input, and promoting volunteer actions to achieve management objectives. Where appropriate, nongame birds will be incorporated in existing conservation projects not otherwise directed specifically at these species, such as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The Service will likewise work with other public/private joint ventures to encourage programs with potential benefits for nongame bird species.

Continue International Cooperation

The Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere lays out the responsibility of the various governments involved to "protect and preserve in their natural habitat representatives of all species and genera of their native flora and fauna, including migratory birds" and "adopt appropriate measures for the protection of migratory birds of economic or aesthetic value or to prevent the threatened extinction of any given species."

Endangered Species Amendments implement the Convention, including, but not limited to, developing personnel resources and programs; identifying birds that migrate between the U.S. and other Western Hemisphere nations; identifying the habitats of these species; and implementing cooperative measures to ensure that these species do not become endangered or threatened.

Service program emphasis is on implementing a few quality, comprehensive training programs rather than a large number of brief activities. For example, the Service cooperated in establishing an international documentation center in Costa Rica and conducting international workshops, both of which are described below.

Regional Center for Wildlife Conservation in Costa Rica
Research conducted in Latin America on migratory nongame birds and other wildlife often is not published in English, and may not be published at all. Plans for developing a wildlife education center to serve as a repository for this "grey" (unpublished) literature as well as a training center for Latin Americans involved in wildlife management were initiated in 1987. This Center for Biological Documentation opened for operation in 1988 and is being further developed cooperatively with the Universidad Naciional Autonoma.
International Workshops
International workshops on wildlife refuge management and on research, management and conservation of migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere have been conducted annually since 1980. The workshops are used to train Latin American professionals in refuge management, and, since 1983, to exchange information on migratory bird conservation.

The Service is also cooperating on other information transfer activities, such as developing a Spanish wildlife management journal and wildlife management textbook, and circulating important resource publications.

Service liaison with international agencies, principally the wildlife agencies of Canada and Mexico, sharing our migratory bird resources currently emphasizes game species. The Service will continue to exchange information with and provide assistance to countries with treaties covering nongame bird species and countries with relevant expertise or similar problems regarding nongame birds.

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Over the long term, the best, and probably the only, way to assure the continued conservation of migratory nongame birds is to have the human population of the countries involved support this conservation or even become actively involved in it. Both educational and recreational activities appeal to the public and both of these can be used to promote public support for migratory nongame bird conservation. In fact, State and local government agencies as well as private organizations have initiated progressive nongame and urban wildlife programs and have developed funding for these initiatives. These programs stimulate public interest in and action on behalf of these species. For example, the Backyard Wildlife Program instituted by the National Wildlife Federation encourages citizens to provide for the needs of nongame birds and urban wildlife in their own backyards through appropriate landscaping. Clearly, the conservation of nongame birds relies on the efforts of all these agencies, organizations, and individuals. The Service will work with them to assure that all the objectives in this strategy document and in the 1988 amendment to the Nongame Act are fulfilled and to reduce duplication of effort among different organizations and agencies.


Individual citizens have evidenced their willingness or desire to provide for the interests of nongame birds and other wildlife. In 1985, 82.5 million Americans fed wild birds. A total of $14.8 billion was spent in 1985 on non-consumptive wildlife related activities. The Service, States, local governments, and private organizations provide appropriate guidance on landscaping, feeding birds, constructing nest boxes, wildlife rehabilitation, and other topics to the public to maximize the usefulness of these activities to nongame and urban wildlife. The Office of Extension and Publications provides funding for cooperative extension education, including projects on nongame birds or urban wildlife. Computer capability to retrieve information on specific projects is available. Project WILD, an environmental and conservation education program principally sponsored by State fish and wildlife agencies in the West, with contributions from the Service and other organizations, will continue. The National Wildlife Refuge System has tremendous potential that will be developed to encourage public awareness of and participation in nongame activities. Other educational projects will be jointly developed and implemented with public and private organizations.


Encouraging public enjoyment of wildlife and appropriate recreation will assure that both the human and wildlife species benefit from these activities. Cooperative efforts, such as the Watchable Wildlife initiative and wildlife viewing guides, will be used to promote public participation.

Appropriate nongame bird recreational opportunities will be provided on Service and other lands. Sites of high value for public enjoyment of nongame birds will be identified and cataloged, with particular emphasis on sites near urban areas. Bird species lists will be maintained and distributed to encourage bird watching on suitable sites. Public use of sites will be monitored and regulated if necessary to preserve the value of the sites as habitat.

The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation reported that 61% of the American public enjoyed wildlife nonconsumptively during 1985, up from 49% reported in 1980. Urban wildlife related enjoyment was popular, with 67.3 million people participating, as was bird feeding with 82.5 million participants. The 1985 Survey was the seventh such survey conducted at 5-year intervals by the Service in conjunction with the Bureau of the Census. These surveys, which provide information on nonconsumptive recreation, including participation rates, associated travel, and expenditures, will continue to be conducted at appropriate intervals.

Individual Participation

Individual citizens can become actively involved in the conservation of migratory birds. The Service will cooperate with other agencies and organizations on educational efforts to encourage intelligent public participation, since the impact of individual citizens on migratory birds can be considerable. For example, properly maintained bluebird nest boxes or purple martin houses stabilized or improved populations of these species, demonstrating the effectiveness of public participation on conserving nongame species. Winter bird feeding impacts migratory species, improving winter survival during exceptionally cold periods and may be responsible for expansion of species range. Landscaping for wildlife has been successful in terms of both public participation and benefits to migratory bird species. Frequently, such projects are sponsored or promoted by State agencies or private organizations. The Service will work with these to encourage appropriate participation by the public.


Times have changed since publication of the Service's draft Nongame Bird Strategies. The 1988 Amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act outline specific activities that the Service must, in cooperation with other agencies and organizations, undertake to conserve migratory nongame birds. To fulfill the requirements of the legislation within available funding, the Service will need to significantly expand its current nongame bird activities, refocus projects from various divisions, and coordinate work with that of other agencies and private organizations. The Service is now set to broaden public support for wildlife by working with an important constituency, the nonconsumptive users of wildlife resources. This document summarizes the work required of the Service and other agencies and organizations in the public and private sectors to develop and implement the first nationally coordinated effort to conserve migratory nongame bird species. Reviews of the progress made in avian conservation will be made at regular intervals. Opportunities for public participation in the process will continue to be provided.

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