Senate Bill Introduced to Conserve Rapidly Disappearing Migratory Birds



For Immediate Release: April 7, 2009

, American Bird Conservancy, 202/234-7181 ext. 216



Cerulean Warbler. Photo: Bill Hubick

(Washington, D.C.) Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, has introduced bipartisan legislation to boost funding for the conservation of migratory birds. Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT).


“Maryland’s natural treasure, our environment, is a lure for millions of human tourists and avian visitors each year. For nearly a decade, federal investment in habitat protection, education, research and monitoring of neotropical migratory birds has been vital to the well-being of our ecosystem and our economy,” said Senator Cardin.


The Senate bill, S. 690, reauthorizes the existing Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA), but at significantly higher levels, to meet the growing needs of our migrants, many of which are in rapid decline. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) plans to introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives. The legislation was introduced following the release of U.S. State of the Birds, the most comprehensive assessment to date on the status of bird populations. The report found that over 250 American bird species are in decline or facing severe threats.


“This legislation is urgently needed to prevent America’s native birds from disappearing,” said Darin Schroeder, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President of Conservation Advocacy. “Nearly half of our songbird population is now in decline or facing serious threats; effective conservation projects can help us to start turning that around.”

Of the 178 continental bird species included on American Bird Conservancy’s WatchList of birds of highest conservation concern, over one-third, 71 species, are Neotropical migrants. The populations of an estimated 127 species of migratory birds are in persistent decline, and 60 species have experienced significant population declines greater than 45% over the last 40 years. Several species, the Cerulean Warbler and Olive-sided Flycatcher, have declined as much as 70% since surveys began in the 1960s.


"Senator Cardin has been a champion of Maryland's environment for many years,” said Schroeder. “This vital legislation recognizes that Maryland's migratory birds, including species like the Baltimore Oriole, Kentucky Warbler and Whip-poor-will, require our help if to ensure that they continue to thrive in our state. We applaud the Senator for his leadership on this critical local and national conservation issue."


Saving Migratory Birds for Future Generations: The Success of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, a 2008 report by American Bird Conservancy, details the disturbing downward trend in the populations of many migratory species and its causes, and documents the effectiveness of NMBCA. American Bird Conservancy and the Bird Conservation Alliance, a broad network of bird clubs, science and conservation organizations, have launched the Act for Songbirds campaign, to support reauthorizing the legislation and boosting funding levels each year. Citizens are being encouraged to contact their Senators in support of the legislation at


“This is something that everyone who loves birds can do to make a difference,” said Schroeder.



NMBCA supports partnership programs to conserve birds in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean, where approximately five billion birds of over 500 species, including some of the most endangered birds in North America, spend their winters. Projects include activities that benefit bird populations such as habitat restoration, research and monitoring, law enforcement, and outreach and education. Between 2002 and 2007, the program supported 225 projects, coordinated by partners in 44 U.S. states/territories and 34 countries. Projects involving land conservation have affected about 3 million acres of bird habitat.


Staff of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report that they receive many more requests for high quality conservation projects than they can provide grants for. NMBCA currently provides a maximum authorization of $6 million per year; this year Congress is recommending an appropriation of $4.75 million, a $250 thousand increase from the previous year. Under the new law, that amount would increase to $20 million by 2015. Grants require matching funds from other non-federal sources. Thus far, more than $21 million from NMBCA grants has leveraged over $95 million in partner contributions. FWS lists 341 migratory bird species that can benefit from the program:




American Bird Conservancy (ABC) works to conserve native wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts to safeguard the rarest bird species, restore habitats, and reduce threats, while building capacity in the conservation movement. ABC is the voice for birds, ensuring that they are adequately protected; that sufficient funding is available for bird conservation; and that land is protected and properly managed to maintain viable habitat. ABC is a 501(c)(3) membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group, Charity Navigator.