Maine Field Office - Ecological Services
Northeast Region

Migratory Bird Program

Migratory birds are one of the “trust resources” that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is charged by Congress to protect and conserve for the benefit of all American people.  The migratory birds protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service include many species, from those familiar to Mainer’s, like the American robin and Northern cardinal, to the rare Bicknell’s thrush and sedge wren.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 is one of the laws that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses to protect birds.  The MBTA was born in an era when women adorned their hats with the feathers of many species of birds and people used pelican-quill pens to sign their letters.  At the same time, uncontrolled market hunting of certain bird species had contributed to declining populations.  Today, 1007 species of birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

Maine boasts a wide variety of migratory birds including passerines (songbirds), waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, wading birds, and waterbirds.  Some of these birds live in Maine year-round, while others are only here during the nesting season.  Some species come to Maine for the winter and others only stop here briefly on their long migrations between nesting and wintering grounds elsewhere.  But whatever their reason for being here in Maine, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with many partners to conserve all migratory birds and the many different habitats they depend on.

Wood Duck. Photo from UFWS digital library

Wood Duck. Photo Credit: USFWS digital library

Wood ducks nest in tree cavities in wooded swamps and other types of forests but are never far from water in Maine.  Their favorite food is acorns.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Program strives to protect, restore, and manage migratory bird populations to :

● ensure long-term ecological sustainability of all migratory bird populations,
● increase socioeconomic benefits,
● improve hunting, bird watching, and other outdoor bird-related experiences,
● increase awareness of the value of migratory birds and their habitats for their intrinsic, ecological, recreational and economic significance.

Red-tailed hawk. Photo from USFWS digital library.

Red-tailed hawk. Photo Credit: USFWS digital library

The red-tailed hawk is a common raptor throughout Maine. Their tell-tale red-brown tail feathers and raspy cry provide easy identification when this bird of prey is here during the summer months.  Red-tailed hawks can spot a mouse from 100 feet in the air!

The Migratory Bird Program is responsible for maintaining healthy migratory bird populations for the benefit of the American people through:

● population monitoring, assessment, and management
● habitat conservation (e.g., National Wildlife Refuges in Maine, Refuge Locator Map Tool).
● permits and regulations
● consultation
● communication and outreach
● recreation

To learn more about migratory birds in Maine and throughout the United States, please explore the annual report on the State of the Birds.  This report is prepared by the Fish and Wildlife Service and other Federal agencies and partners in bird conservation.

The Maine Field Office focuses much effort on the protection and conservation of migratory birds and their habitats.  Our Conservation Planning Assistance program works with wetland permit applicants to minimize the impacts of developments on birds that live in Maine’s wetlands.  We also work with hydro-electric power generators to protect common loons from the potentially adverse effects of fluctuating lake levels during the nesting season.  Our Partners for Fish and Wildlife program works with private landowners to voluntarily restore and enhance habitat for migratory birds, such as salt marsh projects in coastal Maine.  Our Environmental Contaminants program does important investigations with different species of birds, including bald eagles, seabirds, piping plovers, and others.

For more information about ways to minimize impacts to migratory birds see Hazards to Migratory birds

Did you know that each year, house cats and feral cats kill millions of birds and small mammals?  To learn more about how cats affect our birds in Maine, check out these fact sheets:

Cats and Dogs and Birds on the Beach A Deadly Combination
Migratory Bird Mortality Many Human Caused Threats Afflict our Bird Populations
Also, see the position statement of the Maine Chapter of The Wildlife Society regarding free-ranging domestic and feral cats.  The Wildlife Society is a scientific organization for wildlife professionals in the United States and around the world. 

If you are unwilling to eliminate free-roaming cats by keeping your pets inside, do not attract birds to your yard by putting out feeders, nest boxes and baths. Eliminating free-roaming cats is the best way you can protect your backyard birds from cat predation.

Junior Duck Stamp Program

In another effort to promote migratory birds, the USFWS sponsors an annual Junior Duck Stamp competition among four groups encompassing grades K through 12. The Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program is a dynamic, art and science program designed to teach wetlands habitat and waterfowl conservation to students in kindergarten through high school and help reconnect youth with the outdoors. The program guides students, using scientific and wildlife observation principles, to communicate visually what they have learned through an entry into the Junior Duck Stamp art contest. This non-traditional pairing of subjects brings new interest to both the sciences and the arts. It crosses cultural, ethnic, social and geographic boundaries to teach greater awareness of our nation's natural resources.

Hooded merganser. USFWS digital image library

Hooded merganser. Photo Credit USFWS digital image library

The hooded merganser is one of 13 species of “diving ducks” that occur in Maine, either during the nesting season or during the winter.  Hood mergansers nest in tree cavities and propel themselves underwater with powerful strokes of their feet to feed on fish and crustaceans.

Last updated: May 31, 2017
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