Migratory Bird Program

Golden-winged Warbler by Greg Lavaty

Golden-winged Warbler by Greg Lavaty


The annual spring and fall migrations of billions of birds are a natural wonder that marks the changing of the seasons. These migrations also connect different peoples and regions across the Americas, from the Canadian tundra to the rainforests of the Amazon to the tip of South America.


Recently, considerable attention has been paid to migratory birds due to surveys documenting their declining populations. The situation is dire for many species, such as Golden-winged and Cerulean Warblers, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Reddish Egret, and Bicknell’s Thrush. In fact, more than 140 American migratory bird species are declining, restricted to small ranges, or facing population-level threats. Sixty species (including 29 songbird species) are in severe decline, with population decreases of 45 percent or more in the past 40 years.


Habitat loss and poor habitat management hemisphere-wide are impacting the annual migration cycles of these and many other species. Billions of additional birds are killed each year by colliding with windows, towers or other structures, or are poisoned by pesticides and other environmental contaminants.


In the face of these threats, American Bird Conservancy has launched a Migratory Bird Program—a concerted effort to address the full life-cycle conservation needs of these species. We envision that this program will spearhead comprehensive international partnerships and launch conservation actions that effectively address the true reasons for population declines of migratory birds.



Lead a hemisphere-wide partnership to stabilize, increase, and protect the populations of the most threatened migratory bird species and maintain the phenomenon of bird migration in the Americas.



The goals of ABC’s Migratory Bird Program are to:

  • Capitalize on extraordinary recent advances in science to unlock the secrets of bird migration routes,
  • Identify critical wintering and breeding habitats,
  • Protect and manage those sites for multiple species, and
  • Resolve the greatest threats to migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere.

ABC’s Migratory Bird Program will advance these goals by collaborating with hundreds of partner organizations and government agencies to pursue four main strategies:


Halt Extinctions: ABC will first focus on WatchList species, such as the Golden-winged Warbler and the Red Knot rufa subspecies, which are under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing under the Endangered Species Act. We hope to effectively stabilize these bird populations now, eliminating the need to list them.


Among our focal species are:


Long-billed Curlew by Greg Lavaty Bicknell's Thrush by Larry Master Golden-winged Warbler by David Cree Cerulean Warbler by Greg Lavaty
Long-billed Curlew Bicknell’s Thrush Golden-winged Warbler Cerulean Warbler


Conserve habitats: ABC and its partners are developing and applying landscape-scale conservation actions to meet the needs of suites of threatened birds—both migratory and resident—associated with specific habitats throughout the Americas. Our goal is to maximize the quantity and quality of habitat for the greatest number of species. Priorities include the Chihuahuan grasslands, Caribbean slope forests of Mexico and Central America, Caribbean montane forests, boreal forests, mangroves, and early successional forests.

Among the places where we work with partners to conserve habitats are:

Eliminate Threats: We seek to reduce or eliminate the greatest threats to migratory birds through innovative technological and policy solutions. We apply these solutions to threats such as:

We support policy to maintain funding for migratory birds through the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act


Build Capacity: ABC is building the needed science, conservation capacity, and collaborative partnerships throughout the Americas to accomplish our vision. Through Partners in Flight, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, Joint Ventures, Southern Wings, and other partnerships, we will develop and implement full life-cycle plans to reverse the decline of migratory bird species.