[CT Birds] Common Birds in Decline in Connecticut

COMINS, Patrick PCOMINS at audubon.org
Thu Jun 14 11:39:34 EDT 2007

Below is the press release outlining the Connecticut implications of the national study released today that focuses on substantial declines of many common bird species over the last 40 years nationally and in Connecticut .  Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or need any additional information.  I will also be sending the national press release later in the day.    


Patrick Comins, Director of Bird Conservation (contact information below)

CONTACT: Patrick Comins 

pcomins'at'audubon.org <mailto:pcomins at audubon.org>  


Erica Barton

 ebarton'at'audubon.org <mailto:lvanderveer at audubon.org> 


June 14th, 2007 – For Immediate Release

Disappearing Common Birds Send Environmental Wake-up Call

Audubon Analysis Reveals Dramatic Declines for Some of Connecticut’s Most Familiar Birds 

Population declines for some of the most recognized and beloved birds in Connecticut echo the disturbing findings of a new analysis by the National Audubon Society that reveals how local and national threats are combining to take a toll on birds, habitat and the environment across the country.

“These are not rare or exotic birds we’re talking about—these are the birds that visit our feeders and congregate at nearby lakes and seashores and yet they are disappearing day by day,” said Audubon Chairperson and former EPA Administrator, Carol Browner. “Their decline tells us we have serious work to do, from protecting local habitats to addressing the huge threats from global warming.”


The national study found that populations of some common birds nosedived over the past forty years, with several down nearly 80%.  In Connecticut, Eastern Meadowlark, Brown Thrasher and Ruffed Grouse topped the list, each with population declines greater than 98%.   The dramatic declines in Connecticut focus attention on the loss of grasslands, shrublands and young forest habitat in particular and mirror the results of a national study released today. Here at home, the biggest culprits are development, sprawl and lack of habitat management to maintain a diversity of successional stages within the state. “Grassland and shrubland species are taking a double hit not only from development, but also the natural succession process.” said Patrick Comins, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Connecticut  “These habitats are easy targets for development, lacking the legal protections of wetlands and the public awareness that forests enjoy.  Additionally, if they are not actively managed they will grow up into forest on their own.”  The study notes that these threats may now be compounded by new and broader national problems including the escalating effects of global warming and demand for corn-based ethanol.  

Species especially hard hit in Connecticut include:  

*       Eastern Meadowlark: Populations are down 99% and have largely vanished from traditional haunts in Connecticut due mainly to loss of suitable habitat to development, succession and intensive agricultural practices on our remaining farmland, e.g. early season hay harvest and lack of fallow cropland.  

*       Brown Thrasher: Populations are down by 99% and can hardly be described as common today. They were once reasonably easy to find in the neighborhood abandoned lot or forgotten corners of local farms, but sightings now make the rare bird alert.    The sorts of scrubby habitat on which this species depends are either housing developments or have grown back into forest.   

*       Ruffed Grouse:  Populations are down 98%.  Found in young open mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, the Ruffed Grouse is dependent on young forest and shrubland habitat. Loss of forests to development and the loss of old fields as forests mature are key threats, while over-browsing by deer makes some early successional forest less suitable for this species. 

*       Prairie Warbler:  Populations are down 93%.  This species requires relatively extensive shrublands intermixed with taller trees to serve as singing perches. Formerly reasonably common and widespread in Connecticut, Prairie Warblers are now mostly restricted to powerline corridors and preserves that are managed specifically for the conservation of shrubland and early successional species. 

*       Baltimore Oriole:  Populations are down 78%.  While still relatively abundant and widespread in Connecticut, these beautiful birds are far less common than they were 40 years ago when they were among the most familiar and abundant nesting birds in Connecticut.  Reasons for these declines are not entirely certain, but loss of farmland and suburbanization have played a role.  

While most forest birds have had stable or increasing populations in Connecticut as forests have regenerated over the same period, the rate of forest destruction now exceeds the rate of forest growth.  Recent analysis has shown that forest fragmentation is accelerating at a rapid pace and we fear that forest interior birds will likely be the group to show substantial declines over the next 40 years if we don’t act to protect forest interior habitat.  

Audubon Connecticut is working with individuals across the state to monitor bird populations and promote sound stewardship on the ground.  “With over 80% of Connecticut in private ownership, it is essential that we reach out to landowners with guidance and support for managing their lands in bird friendly ways,” said Tom Baptist, Vice President and Executive Director of Audubon Connecticut.  “Audubon Connecticut is providing assistance to landowners to manage habitats for the benefit of birds and other wildlife, working with the Connecticut DEP and other partners to inventory key grassland bird nesting areas and developing Important Bird Area (IBA) conservation plans at 13 of our 26 IBAs.  We have also helped secure funding for Connecticut’s National Wildlife Refuges to protect key habitats. Our centers and sanctuaries serve as models for habitat management and our naturalists educate thousands of school children annually in an effort to inspire the land stewards and conservation leaders of tomorrow.” 

Audubon's Common Birds in Decline list stems from the first-ever analysis combining annual sighting data from Audubon's century-old Christmas Bird Count program with results of the annual Breeding Bird Survey conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey. "This is a powerful example of how tens of thousands of volunteer birders, pooling their observations, can make an enormous difference for the creatures they care the most about," said noted natural history writer Scott Weidensaul. "Thanks to their efforts, we have the information. Now all of us – from birders to policy makers – need to take action to keep these species from declining even further."

Public response will shape the long-term outlook for Connecticut’s Common Birds in Decline. “Fortunately, what individual people do can still make a difference,” says Director of Bird Conservation Patrick Comins who encourages people to:

*       Practice ‘Audubon at Home’ principles in your yard by reducing pesticide use and providing native plantings that support birds and their forage insects as an alternative to lawns. 

*       Support smart growth planning and open space funding to help identify and protect key habitat. 
*       Help track bird population trends and identify key habitats by taking part in bird inventory and monitoring projects. 

*       Sign up for CTCleanEnergyOptions. http://www.ctcleanenergyoptions.com/ 
*       Reduce your energy use by installing CFL light bulbs and purchasing energy efficient appliances. 
*       Sign up for Audubon Connecticut's Advocacy listserv. 
*       Get involved in local planning, wetlands and conservation commissions to ensure sustainable growth with wildlife in mind at the hometown level. 

*       Buy a wildlife license plate from the Connecticut DMV and/or participate in the Endangered Species Income Tax Check-off Program, and

*       Buy shade-grown coffee. 

More information about Audubon’s Common Birds in Decline analysis is available at www.audubon.org <http://www.audubon.org/> . In addition, journalists may visit Audubon’s online press room at www.audubon.org/news/pressroom/CBID <http://www.audubon.org/news/pressroom/CBID> .    

The attached page lists some important ways that concerned individuals can help ensure that these common birds stay common. 

Audubon Connecticut, the state organization of the National Audubon Society with more than 12,000 members statewide, works to protect birds, other wildlife and their habitats through education, science and conservation and legislative advocacy for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.


Common Birds in Decline: A State of the Birds Report

Keeping Common Birds Common: What You Can Do

Protect Local Habitat

Join local Audubon Chapters and other groups to protect and restore habitats close to home. Audubon’s Important Bird Areas program offers opportunities to save critical bird habitat, from small land parcels to broad ecosystems. Learn more at www.audubon.org/bird/iba/index.html <http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/index.html> .


Promote Sound Agricultural Policy

This has enormous impact on grassland birds and habitat, including Northern Bobwhites and Eastern Meadowlarks.  Promoting strong conservation provisions in the federal Farm Bill and Conservation Reserve Program can help protect millions of acres of vital habitat.

Support Sustainable Forests

The Boreal Forest in the Northern U.S. and Canada is essential breeding territory for many species of birds, including Evening Grosbeaks. Federal and state legislations promoting sustainable forest management will help fight habitat loss from inappropriate logging, mining and drilling.

Protect Wetlands

Support for local, state and federal wetlands conservation programs is essential to protect a wide array of species.  Learn more at http://www.audubon.org/campaign/cleanWater2.html <http://www.audubon.org/campaign/cleanWater2.html> .

Fight Global Warming

The decline of common birds is just one impact of global warming’s mounting threat to people and wildlife around the world.  Individual energy conservation along with strong federal, state and local legislation to cap greenhouse emissions can help to curb its worst consequences. Learn more at http://www.audubon.org/globalWarming/ <http://www.audubon.org/globalWarming/> .

Combat Invasive Species 

Invasive non-native species disrupt the delicate ecological balance that sustains birds and other wildlife.  Federal, regional, state and local regulations are needed to combat this growing environmental threat. Learn more at http://www.audubon.org/campaign/invasives/index.shtm <http://www.audubon.org/campaign/invasives/index.shtm> .  The Audubon At Home program offers tips for supporting birds with native plants at http://www.audubon.org/bird/at_home/index.html <http://www.audubon.org/bird/at_home/index.html> .

Patrick M. Comins

Director of Bird Conservation

Audubon Connecticut



Bent of the River Sanctuary

185 East Flat Hill Road 

Southbury,  CT 06488


Phone:  (203)264-5098 x305

or (203)264-5180 x305

Fax:    (203)264-6332

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