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Bird Conservation: The Next Big Idea

07-PIF logo [RIGHT]In the November/December 2013 Birding, Andrew W. Rothman provides a recap of the Fifth International Partners in Flight Conference and Conservation Workshop (“PIF-V”), held in Park City, Utah, August 25–28, 2013. The PIF-V proceedings were commendably forward-looking. Rothman reports in his Birding article that the paper sessions, working groups, and such focused chiefly on tomorrow’s challenges, rather than on yesterday’s research and results.

Birds are still imperiled by climate change, habitat destruction, and a slew of other threats that, honestly, we’ve known about for quite some time now. Don’t get me wrong: Those are serious threats, and we birders need to continue to fight against them. But other challenges loom for bird conservationists—that is to say, for all of us.

I’m curious: What do you suppose these challenges are going to be? I get that climate change and habitat destruction will be central issues for decades to come. And in many parts of the world, DDT and overhunting are frustratingly persistent threats to birdlife. We’re not out of the woods yet on some of the major challenges from the 20th and even 19th centuries. But we also need to move forward, to formulate new strategies and paradigms for bird conservation in the 21st century. So, again, my question: What are they?

I have an idea about this, but I’d like to hear yours first. Please, please, please: Don’t assume that this conversation is open only to professional conservation biologists (although if you do qualify, we’d love to hear from you). Many of the great ideas in bird conservation have had grassroots origins. Let’s see what we can work out together here.

A hint: My idea presents a challenge to, and a huge opportunity for, the ABA.

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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives of the ABA. He is the author of more than 100 magazine and journal articles, and has written four recent books, including an ABA title, the ABA Guide to Birds of Colorado. Floyd is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and state ornithological society meetings, and he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Mainly, he listens to birds at night.
Ted Floyd

Latest posts by Ted Floyd (see all)

  • James Swanson

    It may not be the most important new challenge on the horizon, but if businesses like Amazon go into drone delivery in a big way, collisions with flying birds will go way up. I don’t know anything about collision avoidance mechanisms that might be developed in the near future, but I think this might turn out to be a major threat, especially during migration. I was birding the other day and someone came out with a recreational drone – something I had never seen before. He was very considerate and when he saw I was birding, he asked if it would disturb me if he flew his drone. It was a vertical take-off and landing drone, so needed no runway, just an open space. He flew it over the river and there were no collisions or near-collisions, however, the speed and range of the drone made it evident that it could pose a danger to birds in the air. Another consideration would be if it were legal to hunt birds (or illegally harass them), drones would pose a major problem for bird conservation.

  • Chloe

    Water pollution is a big concern that is often over looked. I know scientists say it has (or will have) an effect on us humans, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it has an effect on birds that try to bathe or drink that water.

  • Kestrel

    Here is my early morning I-have-not-even-had-coffee-yet thought. Local and bird focused. For example: here we have a local land conservancy which has been doing a great job preserving land and offering guided programs on them. Birds have been included. I am taking it a step farther in offering regularly scheduled birdwalks and creating a checklist for one of the publicly open areas. I think what I am trying to say is get birds into conversations everywhere. Look around locally and find places where birds are not part of the education and conversations and get them in there. Another example is that we just happen to have a new CFO at our local (granted, not urban) hospital who is a consummate birder. He has begun a bird list for the hospital grounds engaging others along the way including their CEO. Off to some caffeine and then maybe back with more. Thanks for the great question. I look forward to the compiled results.

  • John Jones

    I see one current and increasingly problematic future challenge to bird conservation being the widening disconnect between children and young people and the natural world. I think this has been covered better by people that are better at writing than I am (see Last Child in the Woods and other books), but with people being disconnected, at best they become more apathetic to conservation as a whole. At worst, they distrust nature and its components. This makes the need to conserve natural communities and the birds, mammals, plants, and fungi, etc of which they are composed a more difficult process.

    • Frank Izaguirre

      John, I think there’s a good chance this disconnect is at least part of what Ted’s idea is about. A related aspect is technology, and how it can drive young people even further away from nature and conservation. But again, my guess is that Ted’s idea might involve using technology as part of the solution too.

  • Steve Hamel

    I just eared about disappearing beaches. Sand is now the most wanted natural resources.
    It is used to build roads, buildings and more. According to Denis Delestrac up
    to 75% of the world beaches have disappeared! Sand from the desert is not good for building.
    It must come from river bank or a quarry. I know that
    beaches are not a primary food source for birds. But I know them as important
    rest area. Is the demand for sand a new threat for the “littoral habitat” which
    is obviously important for birds. There is a link to a documentary (in French)
    that will be on May 28th.
    Here is a link about disappearing beaches in the US:

  • Dark Hawk 98

    Connecting today’s society with the importance of natural places. How especially birds have a huge impact on managing insect populations, reducing the transmission of diseases (including by our carrion eaters) . The most urbanized people need to feel connected too. We have to provide the knowledge in such a way that everyone wants to know more.

    We must spend more time with inner city people (children included) and help them discover the natural world that exists all around them, even in cities.

  • biogalpal

    Hardly any conservation groups speak of this, OR anyone for that matter, but until the self proclaimed “superior species” starts keeping OUR population numbers in check “conservation” & “sustainability” of ANYTHING is a joke! It amazes me that WE dictate all other species numbers sans our own, which has created this mess! 7 billion & growing is to many!!!.

  • Jim

    Animal rights. The idea that all animals have an inherent right to life regardless of their effects on the survival of other species (that’s species….not other individual animals). We can’t kill swans damaging habitat for other birds, we can’t kill cats for destroying nesting seabirds, we are supposed to let eucalyptus trees live in California, because they have a ‘right to exist’. This agenda is very easy for the non-scientists to accept and defend and if you don’t place any higher value on native vs. non-native…or species vs. individuals, you will defend an animal’s right to life with a vengeance.

  • Pingback: Birding Online: November 2013 « ABA Publications()

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