The reservoir's historic structures & ecosystems are an opportunity to create a unique environmental education center for our children & their future.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Birds at risk

The following article was in today's New York Times. I thought that it was relevant to our cause given the amazing number of birds that have been observed at Ridgewood Reservoir. I have added a link to Audubon's watchlist to the sidebar.

December 1, 2007

A Rising Number of Birds at Risk

Relentless sprawl, invasive species and global warming are threatening an increasing number of bird species in the United States, pushing a quarter of them — including dozens in New York and New Jersey — toward extinction, according to a new study by the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy.

The study, called WatchList 2007, categorized 178 species in the United States as being threatened, an increase of about 10 percent from 2002, when Audubon’s last study was conducted. Of the 178 species on the list, about 45 spend at least part of the year in this region.

Among the most threatened is the rare Bicknell’s thrush, a native of the Catskill and Adirondack highlands whose winter habitat in the Caribbean is disappearing. Although less at risk, the wood thrush — whose distinctive song was once emblematic of the Northeast’s rugged woodlands — is on the list because a combination of acid rain and sprawl has damaged its habitat and caused its numbers to decline precipitously over the last four decades.

The Audubon list, which was released Wednesday, overlaps the federal government’s official endangered species list in some cases. But it also includes a number of bird species that are not recognized as endangered by the federal government but that biologists fear are in danger of becoming extinct.

“We’re concerned that there’s been almost a moratorium on the listing of endangered birds over the last seven years under this administration,” Greg Butcher, Audubon’s bird conservation director and a co-author of the new study, said in a telephone interview. Placing a threatened bird on the new watch list can bring it the kind of attention it needs to survive even if the federal government does not act, he said.

“When we pay attention to these birds and do the things we know need to be done, these birds recover,” Mr. Butcher said. “All these birds have a chance to rebound if we put the right actions in motion.”

Those actions include channeling new development to established areas, being vigilant about new invasive species that can devastate habitats and limiting carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change.

The national watch list is divided into two categories: 59 species, including the whooping crane and the lesser prairie-chicken, are on the “red list” for species that are declining rapidly and facing major threats; 119 are on the “yellow list” for species that are declining or rare but are not yet endangered.

In New York, 10 birds — including the Henslow’s sparrow — are on the red list. The cerulean warbler, the short-eared owl and 35 other birds are on the yellow list. New Jersey’s list includes many of the same birds as New York’s. The count in Connecticut is similar, Mr. Butcher said.

The region’s coastal location raises issues of particular concern. Mr. Butcher said he was especially worried about beach birds like the piping plover, the least tern and the black skimmer, as well as birds whose habitat is the region’s disappearing salt marshes. They include the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow and the clapper rail. And he noted that migratory shore birds, including the red knot and the semipalmated sandpiper, would face increasing difficulties in this region.

“As sea level rises, and the salt marshes disappear, these species don’t have anyplace to go,” Mr. Butcher said. “In New York and New Jersey, so many people live close to the coast that we do what we can to safeguard people but we don’t necessarily protect the natural habitat.”

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