Earth Matters: Resources for migrating birds

Earth Matters: Resources for migrating birds


A small but significant Act to support our migrating birds, primarily those who head to the Caribbean and South America, has passed the House of Representatives with bi-partisan support. The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act was co-sponsored by Representatives María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Dave Joyce (R-OH), and Mary Peltola (D-AK) and passed on April 2. The companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and passed on April 18th.

Neotropical migratory birds are those that winter south of the border and summer in North America. More than half the birds we see in North America migrate to South and Central America and the Caribbean. Because of the birds longer residency and protection need, 75% of the grants this bill will help fund are designated to go to South American and Caribbean projects.

While the act is only authorized for $6.5 million, changes to the match from 3:1 to 2:1 will make it easier for grantees to get money on the ground for conservation projects. Even with that small amount, according to the administering agency the US Fish and Wildlife Service, “the Act has provided more than $89 million in grants to support 717 projects in 43 countries. These projects have positively affected more than 5 million acres of bird habitat and spurred partnerships on multiple levels contributing an additional $346 million.”

But there are far more projects than funds available. Only 32% of requests can be funded. The current legislation will also increase funds over five years to $10.5 million.

The long list of projects that have been funded is impressive, including great alliances with conservation partners throughout South America and the Caribbean. From projects that focus on specific endangered species to restoring and conserving habitat used by hundreds of species; great work is being done to help birds. Here are a few:

The National Audubon Society in partnership with the Panama Audubon Society has a grant to Strengthen Shorebird Conservation in Parita Bay. The project description reads,  “Coastal habitats on the Pacific coast of Panama offer some of the most important stopover and wintering habitat for Neotropical migrant shorebird species in the Americas, but they face many threats. National Audubon is partnering with the Inter-American Development Bank and Panama Audubon Society to implement a 3-year, $3 million project focused on the conservation and protection of Panama’s coastal natural capital (defined as mangroves and related wetlands), a project known as “Blue Natural Heritage”. Successful execution of this project presents an opportunity to take shorebird conservation to scale in the region and streamline bird conservation needs into national policy considerations across Panama and beyond over the next ten years.”

The simple title, Protecting Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers in Columbia, grant to Fundacion ProAves masks a desperate situation brought under control. “Two of the most threatened Neotropical migrant landbird species, the Cerulean Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler, depend on subtropical and montane forests across Colombia that are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. Up until March 2020, ProAves had defended its reserves against spiraling deforestation thanks to support from NMBCA. Recently, Colombia has seen increasing deforestation rates as the shutdowns of the COVID-19 crisis has permitted illegal exploitation of natural resources on protected areas as government entities struggle to respond. With ProAves reserve rangers unable to depend on the help of authorities, eight reserves were exploited by illegal logging and squatters. With the support of NMBCA, plus an emergency grant from our ProAves Endowment, forest rangers were hired in April 2020 and ProAves added resources for fencing, signage, and increased legal support. Fortunately, this resulted in almost all invasions being rebuffed.”

Mitigating the Perils to Urban Birds grant to the Carnegie Institute in Pennsylvania intends to “Make Pittsburgh a more livable city for migrating landbirds by conserving high quality stopover habitat and reducing the direct anthropogenic threats birds face during migration. Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Carnegie Institute) will accomplish this goal by protecting 110.25 acres of habitat for migrating birds, restoring 8 to 15 acres of wetland habitat, researching bird avoidance of patterned glass in a flight tunnel, installing collision reducing measures on commercial buildings in Pittsburgh, enrolling Pittsburgh residents and businesses in a lights out program, and educating area residents and businesses about the importance of reducing bird-window collisions, turning lights out, and restoring native habitat to conserve migrating birds.”

This is a tiny sampling of the over 700 projects this important Act has enabled. Without protection in their wintering grounds, many of the beautiful birds that liven our spring and summer will not be returning. The Act was passed but it still needs your support. Please thank your Representatives and ask them to support full funding of the Act. This link will let you send a message directly:


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