Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 15, 2021


Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Federal Report: More Than 260 Migratory Bird Species in Need of Conservation

‘Early Warning System’ for Protecting North American Birds Gets First Update Since 2008

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a new report today on bird conservation that takes into account how human impacts on North American birds will intensify with ongoing climate change.

The new report identifies 269 species of conservation concern, including the snowy owl, red-headed woodpecker, American white pelican and Vaux’s swift. Species of concern include 54% of grassland birds, 53% of shorebirds and 48% of seabirds.

Last issued in 2008, “Birds of Conservation Concern 2021” is meant to serve as an “early warning system” to help federal agencies focus on species that may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“This report reinforces the growing scientific alarm that birds across North America are falling victim to the extinction crisis in greater and greater numbers,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Long the leading cause of bird declines, habitat destruction is being worsened by climate change. We hope this report signals a commitment from the Biden administration to quickly protect more of the natural world, so these birds can continue to grace our skies.”

The biggest increase in newly imperiled species identified since the 2008 report is among birds found in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands: 35 species, up from 23 in 2008. This increase is striking because most Hawaiian birds are already listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Those listed species are not included in the report.

A sobering 2019 study by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology found that the North American population of breeding adult birds has decreased by a staggering 2.9 billion individuals since 1970.

Yet the Trump administration sought to redefine and drastically weaken the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. One of the nation’s first conservation laws, the Act was enacted to implement U.S. international treaty commitments to protect populations of migratory birds.

In May the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a proposal to revoke a final Trump administration rule that sought to modify the Act. The Center and other national environmental groups filed suit in January challenging the Trump administration’s reinterpretation of the law.

American white pelican. Photo by Robert Burton, USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

center locations