Migratory Birds
Conserving the Nature of America in the Southwest Region
Southwest Region USFWS facebook page Southwest Region USFWS page Southwest region USFWS Flikr page USFWS YouTube site
Sandhill crane flies across the water at a Bosque sunset
Migratory Bird Highlights HotTopics
Centennial Perspectives: the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916
A Compilation by Jason Mercado, Migratory Birds

August 2016
As we reflect on the Migratory Bird Treaty, it is humbling to consider the conservation legacy left behind by people like Teddy Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold and Ding Darling, but it is equally impressive to consider the legions of scientists, biologists, and bird enthusiasts who have supported and ultimately are responsible for the success of the treaty over the past 100 years.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The years teach much which the days never knew”, therefore I thought it would be appropriate to glean some insight and wisdom from folks who have dedicated many years of their lives to migratory bird conservation.

We were extremely fortunate to have access to several retired and highly accomplished migratory bird biologists who each have decades of experience: David Sharp, Steve Wilds, Jerry Serie, Robert Blohm and Steve Lewis. These distinguished conservationists were kind enough to enlighten us with their perspectives on what the Treaty has meant to migratory bird conservation in North America. With their wealth of knowledge to share, this is but a snapshot. Here’s what they had to say:

  • David
  • Steve
  • Jerry
  • Robert
  • Steve

David Sharp

David Sharp. Credit: USFWS.

Centennial Perspectives - David Sharp

Dave Sharp served for 36 years as a Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: 1975-85 at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, North Dakota and Dixon California, 1985-88 with the Office of Migratory Bird Management, Laurel, Maryland, 1988-90 with the U.S. Office for the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Twin Cities, Minnesota, and 1990-2010 for the Division of Migratory Bird Management serving at the Central Flyway Representative.

“From my perspective, I would like to provide a quick point of clarification. The first treaty with Great Britain (Canada) is one of four such U.S. treaties for migratory birds and all are inextricably linked and together form the foundation for the protection of North American migratory birds. As a result, migratory birds along with anadromous fish are fundamentally a unique federal trust responsibility for wildlife conservation and management. In the U.S., the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918) and its subsequent amendments implement through regulations all of these treaties.”


Steve Wilds

Steve Wilds. Credit: USFWS.

Centennial Perspectives - Steve Wilds

Steve Wilds worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, North Dakota, when he was a college student. He assisted with waterfowl research projects for three summers. He spent seven years as a wildlife biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and represented Indiana on the Mississippi Flyway Council Technical Section. In 1978, he was hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and worked in the Southeast Region as the Assistant Migratory Bird Coordinator. There he performed Bicentennial Heritage planning for national wildlife refuges in the southeast for almost two years. In late 1979, he transferred to the Twin Cities and worked with land acquisition, ascertainment, and as an assistant refuge supervisor, regional refuge biologist for the northern part of the Midwest Region, and served 18 years as the Regional Migratory Bird Chief.

“For me, the treaty or, as Dave said, “treaties”, provide the basis for all of our migratory bird management and they established the authority of the federal government to oversee migratory bird population management. Though Teddy Roosevelt had already set aside our first national wildlife refuges prior to the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty with Great Britain, most national wildlife refuges which are currently in the National Wildlife Refuge System were established with a primary objective of preserving waterfowl and other migratory bird habitat and to provide protected areas for migratory birds.

That system would be far smaller and less effective than it currently is without the treaty. From my perspective, it is important to note that the treaties provide for the protection of migratory bird populations through regulated take of birds. That is a very important point for people to understand when the authorization of hunting and taking of migratory birds through the issuance of permits by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is questioned. The treaty recognized that taking of some birds was beneficial and/or necessary and authorized that take as long as populations were protected. Finally, it is necessary to recognize that without the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the Migratory Bird Convention (Treaty) of 1916 could not have been implemented in the United States. It is that Act which allows the Service to take the migratory bird management actions it does every day.”

Jerry Serie

Jerry Serie. Credit: USFWS.

Centennial Perspectives - Jerry Serie

Jerry Serie began his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, North Dakota, in 1971. As a wildlife biologist, his research mainly focused on the breeding biology and migration ecology of the canvasback. In 1984, he moved to the east coast to become the Atlantic Flyway Representative with the Division of Migratory Bird Management where he was the liaison between the Service and the Atlantic Flyway Council regarding migratory bird management and research. He actively promoted the development of the Black Duck Joint Venture in the 1986 North American Waterfowl Management Plan. During his tenure, he published more than 35 peer reviewed papers on a variety of technical and management related migratory bird topics. He continues to serve on various committees and volunteers to support the work of many nongovernmental organizations including The Trumpeter Swan Society, Ducks Unlimited and the Easton Waterfowl Festival.

“Several significant events were fundamentally linked and monumental for any lasting federal protection of migratory birds to have occurred. Obviously, the first success would have to be the signing of the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaty between Great Britain (Canada) and the United States, ratified by the U.S. Senate, and signed by President Woodrow Wilson in December 1916. Following that, the second success would have to be the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by congress and signing by Woodrow Wilson in July 1918. And, thirdly, the challenge upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1920 of Missouri v Holland was a hugely important success. All of these in aggregate were necessary accomplishments. The centennial celebration of the Migratory Bird Treaty is testament to all those farsighted individuals who recognized the need, pursued a diplomatic solution, and legislated into law the federal protection of migratory birds that gave rise to subsequent international treaties, and the development of successful management and research programs throughout North America that will conserve migratory birds and their habitats for future generations.”

Robert Blohm

Robert Blohm. Credit: USFWS.

Centennial Perspectives - Robert Blohm

Robert Blohm began working for the Office/Division of Migratory Bird Management in 1979 following graduate school and remained in the program for nearly 32 years, retiring at the end of 2010 as Chief of the Division. Since then, he has stayed connected to migratory birds through writing, presentations, duck stamp judging, editing manuscripts and he served as a board member of the Trumpeter Swan Society for over four years, with a current role as Conservation Advisor.

“Even though a lot of us moved on during our career to occupy administrative and other positions within the migratory bird program, I don't think we ever forgot our research and data-gathering roots. Following the tradition that started in earnest with the treaty in 1916, and passed on by those we followed in this profession, we were instilled with a great appreciation for information on migratory birds. We quickly saw its value in supporting migratory bird management programs, both population and habitat management, and in making decisions that, at the very least, were informed and hopefully the best we could make at the time. I think, as a result, we always tried to support and improve as 3/4 much as we could all the survey and monitoring activities that were our responsibility, and cooperate with other data-gathering activities outside our program, plus stay in touch with research folks wherever they might be. To me, this reliance on sound biological information for all those agencies and organizations entrusted with helping to manage and conserve our migratory bird resource is one of the key legacies of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916.”

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis. Credit: USFWS.

Centennial Perspectives - Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis worked for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1983 to 2015, initially in the Washington Office and then, for nearly 30 years, in the Midwest Region. He worked at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge for two years, but most of his career was with the Migratory Bird Program. A lot of significant bird conservation and management programs were developed during his time with the Migratory Bird Program, including the nongame bird conservation program, the "Big Four" bird conservation partnerships the Mississippi Flyway's Nongame Bird Technical Section, implementation of double-crested cormorant management, and fostering of urban bird treaties. He retired a year ago, but has volunteered about a day a week with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The most obvious ramifications of the migratory bird treaties and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are the regulations that have been developed to govern the take of migratory birds through hunting, depredation orders and various kinds of permits. But my nugget would be that the treaties were also part of the underpinnings for many non-regulatory programs, such as the "big four" international bird conservation partnerships: the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan, U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan and North American Waterbird Conservation Plan. Fundamental to these initiatives was the realization that many birds range far and wide during their annual cycles, that science-based research and population monitoring are needed to understand their status and limiting factors, and that coordinated efforts involving federal and state agencies, tribes, non-governmental organizations, and academia are needed to achieve successful conservation and management of migratory birds. The flyway councils and technical sections (both game and nongame) are also important partnerships that have been instrumental in implementing the migratory bird treaties through both regulatory and non-regulatory actions that benefit migratory birds and their habitats.”

Playa Country Radio: Celebrating 100 Years of Bird Conservation

February 2016
Listen to Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region and Jennifer Duberstein, Coordinator for the Sonoran Joint Venture, discuss passenger pigeons, the roots of migratory bird conservation in the U.S., and the importance of the Migratory Bird Treaty on the latest edition of Playa Country Radio. http://pljv.org/radio_episodes/celebrating-100-years-of-bird-conservation/

Visit the Southwest Region Migratory Bird Centennial page to learn more about bird conservation in the Region.

And to learn more about the Migratory Bird Centennial, visit www.fws.gov/birds/MBTreaty100/


waterfowl on water

Waterfowl. Federal Duck Stamp image.

Waterfowl Population Report

Attached is the Waterfowl Population Status Report.  In North America the process of establishing hunting regulations for waterfowl is conducted annually. The process involves a number of scheduled meetings in which information regarding the status of waterfowl is presented to individuals within the agencies responsible for setting hunting regulations. This report includes the most current breeding population and production information available for waterfowl in North America and this report is intended to aid the development of waterfowl harvest regulations in the United States for the 2015–2016 hunting season. Thanks to everyone involved in this important, annual, cooperative, international effort, especially those folks in the air and out on the ground.

Read the Waterfowl Population Report
Watch the Status of Waterfowl video


Jennie Duberstein holds a vulture

Photo credit: Jean-François Therrien.

A Birding Interview with Jennie Duberstein

In Birding Magazine, the flagship publication of the American Birding Association, features an interview of Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, Jennie Duberstein. You will learn about what inspired a career in conservation and what motivates and inspires her today in her work with the Sonoran Joint Venture.

Read the blog post on Canicas Running

Read the entire interview article from Birding Magazine

Learn more about Birding from the American Birding Association

As part of the Sonoran Joint Venture, Jennie Duberstein helps conserve the birds and habitats of the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico— and that includes the Turkey Vulture.



redhead duck
Redhead duck. Photo credit: USFWS.

Duck Data, 2015: Photovoltaic Cells, Satellites, GPS and Doppler Radar

The redhead duck is arguably among the handsomest of waterfowl. That is of course a matter of opinion. But here's a fact: eighty percent of all North American redhead ducks spend their winters concentrated along the lower Gulf Coast of Texas in the Laguna Madre. The birds have an affinity for, if not an obligation to, freshwaters situated near salty shores. They feed on shoalgrass in the Laguna and fly inland to purge excess salts. Redheads, like most birds that feed in saltwater have a salt gland near the eye that excretes excess salts ingested while feeding. It is essential that salt be purged daily in freshwater ponds. And knowing the array of habitats frequented by the bird during south Texas winter sojourns is essential for Dan Collins.

Learn more about the redhead duck and the Service's Southwest Region employee, Dan Collins.

Dan Collins Radio Interview on Redhead Duck

Southwest Region Migratory Bird website


AZGF eagle release
Golden Eagles released. Photo Credit: Les Stukenberg.

Arizona Game and Fish Department
Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center released 3 Golden Eagles into the wild

Learn more





Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle. Photo credit: USFWS.

Rehabilitated Golden Eagle Soars Again!

Permitted rehabilitator, Dennis Miller of Gila Wildlife Rescue in Silver City, NM, received in an adult female golden eagle now named "Thor" that crashed into a moving vehicle at 60 miles per hour and amazingly survived.  Prior to release, Dale Stahlecker, on behalf of New Mexico State University, attached a satellite transmitter to the eagle, which provides location data daily showing movement of the bird.  Thor has been spending the summer in northern Alaska, which indicates she probably hatched in that area several years ago. 

Learn more about Thor
Read Thor's Special Meaning for One Family



Golden Eagle  
Golden Eagle. photo credit: USFWS.  

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Determines Permit for Limited Take of Golden Eagles Would be Compatible With Their Preservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed an amended Final Environmental Assessment and amended Finding of No Significant Impact regarding the issuance of a permit to the Hopi Tribe for take of nestling golden eagles in northeastern Arizona for tribal religious purposes.

The Amended Final Environmental Assessment (EA) and the Amended Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) documents are available for review. Both documents are here for reading or download.


This year we mark the centennial of the Convention between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds - also called the Migratory Bird Treaty - that was signed on Aug. 16, 1916. This  Migratory Bird Treaty (446.6KB), and three others that followed, form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve birds that migrate across international borders.

Read more about the Migraytory Bird Centennial

Migratory Bird Day
Watch the Buff breasted Sandpiper video.
duck stamp
Buy Duck Stamps
Bald and Golden Eagle Management Public Scoping Process
West Nile Virus
Detecting new, emerging and introduced diseases and maintaining long term surveillance of domestic disease problems affecting wild birds
- learn more

bald eagle chicks
Eagle Nest Camera Guidance

Rufous Hummingbird -
Last updated: August 11, 2016