Piping plover (Photo by Gordon Prince)

Piping plover (Photo by Gordon Prince)

One third of North America's birds in trouble

Habitat is key

Johnson's Mills, New Brunswick (Photo by NCC)

Johnson's Mills, New Brunswick (Photo by NCC)

A new report has found birds in North America, including Atlantic Canadian shorebirds and ocean birds, are facing serious population declines. The State of North America's Birds 2016 report, released last month, found that of 1,154 bird species living in and migrating between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, almost one third are of "high concern." These birds are declining in numbers due to threats such as climate change, pollution, predators, urbanization and habitat loss.

The report says the situation is particularly serious for species that either nest in or stop in Atlantic Canada — primarily ocean birds and shorebirds.

"When we're protecting birds and their habitat, it's not just for Nova Scotia or New Brunswick and it's not just for Canada: some of these birds have the longest migrations in the world. They link the Americas," says Dan Kraus, senior director of conservation development for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The Bay of Fundy: A migratory hotspot

Kraus says the coastline of the Bay of Fundy is of particular importance.

"The Bay of Fundy is one of the world's hotspots for migrating shorebirds. It's one of the few places in the world you can stand in awe and look at hundreds of thousands of birds in one day," Kraus said. NCC has targeted many areas of southern New Brunswick for habitat conservation, including the Musquash Estuary near St John. NCC also manages an internationally recognized migratory bird reserve and interpretive centre at Johnson’s Mills, near Moncton.

Nova Scotia's South Shore

Nova Scotia's South Shore, where NCC is currently working to protect saltmarshes and coastal habitat in Port Joli and Lobster Bay, is another important habitat for birds. Shorebirds such as piping plover and semipalmated sandpiper are on the watchlist and at risk of extinction.

In spite of those trends, Kraus says there are some examples of birds that are doing well, such as the Atlantic puffin, because of efforts to protect the islands where they nest.

“If birds don't have healthy habitat to breed, to feed, to rest during their migration, we're not going to be able to protect them for future generations," said Kraus. Along with supporting efforts to protect bird habitat, individuals can help birds through “microconservation”:  keeping cats indoors and attaching bells to their collars, and creating backyard habitats by planting native shrubs and trees for food and cover.

You can help

Help us protect crucial ocean and shorebird habitats by supporting our work. Visit natureconservancy.ca/at to learn more about how you can volunteer, contribute to our projects and make a difference in the well-being of our country’s people and wildlife.

More information on our migratory bird reserve and interpretive centre at Johnson's Mills >

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