The Comeback Kids (Endangered Species Success Stories)

Far too often we hear only of the negatives and perils that our natural world faces. This article is dedicated to some of the great success stories in conservation and will hopefully make you feel good about the support you have given to conservation groups.

The American Bald Eagle has to be the poster child for bird conservation success in our country but there are many others that may surprise you. For those who call about the massive amounts of goose droppings left by Canada Geese, it may be hard to imagine that these birds were once an endangered species. So were Wild Turkeys, Wood Ducks and Brown Pelicans. Eastern Bluebirds were never officially considered endangered species but their populations did dip precariously low.

How did these birds make such wonderful recoveries? It took the work of many concerned people and groups. The first step came in the form of legal protection. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was the first comprehensive law designed to protect birds from large-scale illegal hunting and trade, but it wasn’t until the Endangered Species Act of 1973 passed that conservation was given the legal tool they needed to protect threatened birds.

As you can imagine, the private sector has played a critical part in bird conservation. The Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Birdlife International and many other groups of concerned citizens have poured billions of dollars into the conservation of our natural resources. Since habitat loss is the number one issue facing most threatened species, it isn’t surprising that a large part of helping wildlife has come in the form of buying and/or restoring critical parcels of land.

In many cases, it isn’t enough just to protect a species from illegal killing and setting aside enough land for them to recover over time. Other species require much greater effort. Birds like the Whooping Crane and California Condors are extreme examples of birds that have required captive breeding programs to save them. Eastern Bluebirds have greatly benefited from construction and monitoring of artificial nesting structures.

How can we continue the positives? One of the best places is in your own backyard. Birds such as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Northern Cardinal and Northern Mockingbird are more numerous today than they have ever been in this country. Much of their success is linked to bird feeding, urban landscaping and legal protection. A fun way to help even further is to participate in Project Feeder Watch. See the back page for details on this fun and educational program to help the birds.

By Mark McKellar

Fall 2006