Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

55 Pacific Island Bird Species Added to Federal List of to Federal List of "Migratory Birds"

March 1, 2010


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

Species Now Protected Under Migratory Bird Treaty Act

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould today announced the first revisions to the list of bird species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act since 1985, including the addition of 24 species that occur only in Hawai‘i and 28 species from American Samoa, the Mariana Islands, or Baker and Howland Islands.

“This update to the list of federally protected birds reflects the best available science on bird taxonomy and distribution and will help us improve management of our nation’s migratory birds,” said Gould. “The new list benefits researchers, hunters, conservationists, state agencies, tribal governments, and birdwatchers by extending federal protection to all migratory bird species native to the United States while highlighting advances and changes in bird taxonomy that have accumulated since the list was last published.”

The changes include 186 new additions and 11 subtractions, bringing the total number of species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to 1,007. Species appearing on this list are protected from take (killing, capturing, or attempts to kill or capture of adults, eggs, or nests) and from commercial use, unless authorized under migratory bird permits or hunting regulations. Many of the Hawaiian species and five Mariana species are already protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Sixty-five species were added to the list based on documented sightings within the United States, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1985, including three new species for Hawai‘i. Twenty-four species from the Fringillidae family were added to the list, including many of the Hawaiian forestbird species and three species from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. An additional 28 species occurring naturally in American Samoa, Baker and Howland Islands, Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands also were added.

The revisions also remove species no longer known to occur within the United States and change some names to conform to accepted usages. The changes also reflect taxonomic revisions to the bird taxa of North America published by the American Ornithologists’ Union, and changes in the Migratory Bird List incorporate name changes and revisions moving some species from one taxon to another.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act implements Conventions between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Russia. Unlike the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act requires no demonstrated biological need for protection, and species are listed whenever they are part of a family or species contained within one of the Conventions. Although many of the newly listed species are found only on one or one archipelago and do not truly “migrate,” they qualify for protection because their families are covered by the Canadian and/or Mexican Conventions.

All species included on the list are considered federally protected, and governed by federal regulations limiting take (from the wild), possession, and other use. These regulations provide considerable flexibility for managing bird populations, including establishment of hunting seasons where deemed appropriate. The Service is the primary federal agency responsible for managing migratory birds.

The final rule can be found online at Newly listed Pacific species are found below.

Click here to view the migratory birds list

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