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Climate change pushing birds to extinction: report
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Climate change pushing birds to extinction: report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 9, 2014 (OTTAWA, ON) — Climate change seriously threatens bird species across Canada and the United States according to a new groundbreaking report released today by Nature Canada’s partner organization, the Audubon Society.  The report concludes that half of all birds studied could see their populations drop dramatically on account of climate change. According to the report, habitat disruption brought on by climate change is one of the main factors pushing bird populations into areas to which they are not adapted. The report finds that climate change is happening so fast that many species simply cannot keep up. It concludes that this is likely to lead to the decline of bird populations across North America and, in some cases, outright extinction. “Canada needs to prepare itself for an influx of climate refugee species displaced by warmer temperatures, habitat loss, drought or extreme weather,” said Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s Interim Executive Director. “Iconic species like the Chestnut-collared Longspur and the Ivory Gull need our support right now to ensure that they have the habitat they need to survive next year but also in coming years due to worsening climate change.” Audubon’s report echoes the findings of the State of Canada’s Birds report, produced in partnership with Nature Canada, showing that many bird species are declining dramatically in Canada. For 75 years, Nature Canada has worked to protect habitat for species at risk in Canada and internationally. “All the evidence suggests that habitat loss due to climate change is going to hit hard,” said Ted Cheskey, Senior Bird Conservation Manager at Nature Canada. “To help mitigate the impact of climate change, Nature Canada and our provincial affiliates are working with local field naturalist groups and First Nations communities to steward and conserve the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Canada identified as globally significant.”

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[one_third][separator headline="h2" title="Media Contacts:"] Paul Jorgenson Senior Communications Manager 613-562-3447 ext 248 pjorgenson@naturecanada.ca Monica Tanaka Communications Coordinator 613-562-3447 ext 241 mtanaka@naturecanada.ca [/one_third] [one_third][separator headline="h2" title="About Nature Canada:"] Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, we’ve helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and the countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, we represent a network of over 45,000 members & supporters and more than 350 nature organizations in every province across Canada. Nature Canada is a Canadian co-partner in BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations that conserve birds, habitat and global biodiversity. The Audubon Society is the American partner in BirdLife International. Read the full report here. [/one_third] [one_third_last][separator headline="h2" title="Multimedia resources:"]
[caption id="attachment_16133" align="aligncenter" width="125"]image of Ivory Gull Click for full-size image of Ivory Gull for media use[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16134" align="aligncenter" width="125"]image of Chestnut-collared Longspur Click for full-size image of Chestnut-collared Longspur for media use[/caption]
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Voices of Nature
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Voices of Nature

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Canada’s Grassland Birds Face Declining Populations
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Canada’s Grassland Birds Face Declining Populations

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The Greater Sage-grouse is on the brink of extinction in Canada. This iconic prairie bird, known for its spectacular mating dance, will likely vanish if emergency measures are not put in place to protect its grassland and sagebrush habitat. Unfortunately, the Sage-grouse is not alone. It’s one of many grassland bird species that have been declining over the past four decades. In a recent report co-published by Nature Canada, the plight of Canada’s grassland birds is placed in the context of changing agricultural practices, urban development and international conservation challenges to bring to light the need for concerted efforts to save grassland birds and their habitat before it’s too late.
The report, The State of Canada’s Birds 2012, draws on 40 years of data and summarizes the status of Canada’s bird populations for eight regions, including the boreal forest, prairies, Arctic and oceans. It’s the result of a collaborative effort between the National Bird Conservation Initiative in Canada (NABCI-Canada), and it highlights numerous changes to bird populations in Canada since the 1970s.The report found that grassland birds including Longspurs, Meadowlarks, Sprague’s pipit, Greater Sage-grouse and others, have declined by 50% due largely to a loss of habitat. Grassland bird populations are dwindling as high-intensity farming practices like wetland drainage, conversion of pastureland to cropland and over-grazing remove and degrade grassland and wetland habitat that supports grassland bird populations in the Canadian prairies and Lower Great Lakes – St. Lawrence regions.
In addition to those factors, increasing water use by cities, construction of roads and buildings that fragment habitat, and fire suppression near towns and cities compound the problem of disappearing grassland and wetland habitat. Climate change is also an emerging threat. The predicted increase in droughts for the prairies will have severe consequences for birds and humans.
However, there are significant conservation opportunities for Canadians to ensure healthy bird populations and healthy ecosystems.
So what can be done to reverse this trend?
[separator headline="h2" title="Bird-friendly Farming"]
It might come as a surprise to some that maintaining healthy populations of birds in the Canadian prairies can be compatible with agricultural practices that form the basis of the region’s economy and culture.  But according to the State of Canada’s Birds report, there are conservation opportunities – as well as challenges – present in the relationship between ranchers and naturalists.
In the prairies, there is a need to expand farming practices that are compatible with birds. Many grassland birds – from Meadowlarks to Loggerhead Shrikes – benefit from appropriate livestock grazing to maintain their preferred habitat.
Here are a few more bird-friendly farming practices:
  • No-till farming
  • Planting cover crops such as pasture and hay that prevent soil erosion and provide nesting cover for some grassland birds
  • Reducing pesticide use
  • Delay of haying until after young birds fledge
  • Maintenance and re-establishment of hedgerows
An example of well-managed native grassland habitat can be found in the “community pastures” or PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) pastures in the prairie provinces. These pastures are vital to the survival of 31 species at risk, including some of Canada’s most endangered birds. But with the recent passing of Bill C-38, this critical habitat will no longer be managed by the federal government but instead be handed over to the provinces, which will likely sell the land to the highest bidder. As a result, grassland birds and other wildlife that depend on a healthy network of PFRAs face losing the protection and maintenance formerly provided by the federal government. This is an issue that conservationists will need to watch closely as the hand-over gets underway.
[separator headline="h2" title="Buy Bird-friendly products"]
It has been shown that consumer choices can make a positive impact on forest birds through their choice in coffee. Shade grown coffee conserves bird habitat while sun grown coffee does not. In a similar way, some South American countries can support grassland bird habitat conservation by purchasing ‘bird certified’ beef from ranches that employ bird-friendly practices.
While bird-friendly practices are one part of the solution, the report also highlights the need for urban development to progress in a direction that conserves as much grassland habitat as possible and avoids key areas for birds.
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The greatest threat for migratory grassland bird species like Swainson’s Hawk is loss of habitat both inside and outside Canada. Swainson’s Hawk over-winters in the pampas and cerrado of the Southern Cone of South America, which faces ongoing habitat loss – grasslands are increasingly being converted to agriculture, plantations or urban settlements. Effective conservation of grassland migratory bird species that Canada shares with countries throughout the Americas, requires international cooperation that ensures the needs of these birds are addressed at all phases of their life cycles.
[/two_third] [one_third_last] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"]Image of a Greater Sage-grouse The Greater Sage-grouse faces extinction due to habitat loss[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="240"]Image of a Swainson's hawk Swainson's hawk is losing habitat in its over-wintering sites in South America.[/caption] [/one_third_last]

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