Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

“State of the Birds” Report Shows Climate Change Impacts to Wetland, Grassland and Forest Birds of the Midwest

April 1, 2010


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

April 13, 2010
Contact: Ashley Spratt, 612-713-5314

“State of the Birds” Report Shows Climate Change Impacts to Wetland, Grassland and Forest Birds of the Midwest

Climate change threatens to further imperil hundreds of species of migratory birds, already under stress from habitat loss, invasive species and other environmental threats, a new report released recently by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar concludes.

The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change, follows a comprehensive report released a year ago showing that that nearly a third of the nations 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline.

“For well over a century, migratory birds have faced stresses such as commercial hunting, loss of forests, the use of DDT and other pesticides, a loss of wetlands and other key habitat, the introduction of invasive species, and other impacts of human development,” Salazar said. “Now they are facing a new threat--climate change--that could dramatically alter their habitat and food supply and push many species towards extinction.”

The report, a collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and experts from the nation’s leading conservation organizations, shows that climate changes will have an increasingly disruptive effect on bird species in all habitats.

Climate Change Impacts on Birds of the Midwest
Key findings for birds found in the Midwest from the “State of the Birds” show that birds in coastal and grassland habitats in the Midwest show intermediate levels of vulnerability; most birds in wetland and forests show relatively low vulnerability to climate change. For bird species that are already of conservation concern such as Whooping crane, Short-billed Dowicher, and olive-sided flycatcher, the added vulnerability to climate change may hasten declines or prevent recovery.

Once a common bird found in eastern forests of the Midwest region, the Whip-poor-will has shown a steady decline over recent decades in several areas. The Breeding Bird Survey recorded a 16.1% population decline in Illinois over the 1966-1994 period. Climatic changes, which are thought to cause increases in the diseases of oak forests, a favored habitat, may pose more serious long-term problems for this species’ continued viability.

As hayfields and pastures have declined across the northern Great Plains and Upper Midwest so too has the Bobolink, which was once a common denizen of open grasslands in southern Canada and the northern third of the lower 48 states. For the most recent decade (1980–1989), Breeding Bird Survey data show significant declines for Bobolink breeding areas in North America. Even where hayfields and a grazing economy persist, declines have continued due to earlier seasonal mowing of hay crops, which break up nests of this species. At times, the species has been viewed as a pest as thousands of birds descend upon rice fields and other croplands during winter or migration. The long distance of migration makes the species more subject to the vagaries of a changing climate, increased potential for collision with cell towers, wind turbines, and heavily-guyed communication towers.

The Olive-sided Flycatcher, an uncommon migrant, breeds in the boreal forests of northern Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin north into Canada. As a long-distance migrant, this species is vulnerable to climatic changes including increased velocity of tropical storms and changes in wind patterns. Extreme weather fluctuations on the breeding grounds can bring about a lack of insect life during portions of the breeding season when young are in the nest, leading to starvation.

For details on the impact of climate change to these and other species, visit and Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC ( will work to address climate change impacts to migratory birds that spend portions of their life cycles in these Midwest landscapes.
“Our migratory birds are sending us a message about the health of our grasslands, wetlands for forests, and it is a message we will not ignore,” said Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius. “Landscape Conservation Cooperatives will improve our science capacity so that we may work with our partners to learn more about little-known species, and take specific strategic conservation and management actions to proactively address the impacts we are already seeing to birds and their habitats in the Midwest.”

The Midwest Region is also participating in the development of three additional LCCs in partnership with other regions. These LCCs will address conservation issues within the Eastern Tallgrass Prairie, Gulf Coast Plain/Ozarks, and Appalachian landscapes.

For more information about the progress and activities of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives visit

The report is the product of a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, between federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organizations including partners from the American Bird Conservancy, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

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