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​Endangered Bird Species in the United States and the Pollutants Causing Harm

Posted by Amanda Joest on

Despite the many conservation programs and organizations led by the heroes of bird conservation, there continue to be issues affecting the lives and wellbeing of birds today. As bird lovers it’s important to be aware of how environmental factors such as air and noise pollution are effecting our feathered friends, as well as the overall condition of birds today including which species are endangered. You may be surprised by the numerous difficulties these animals face every day. The following are a few of the most urgent issues and how they are changing the bird population forever. 

Air Pollution

More than ever birds are suffering from the effects of air pollution. Much like the way air pollutants have an impact on human health, birds are suffering from the severity of toxins in the air, too. Recent studies have confirmed that because birds have extremely high respiratory rates, they are afflicted by similar respiratory issues that humans suffer from when exposed to air pollution and airborne impurities. Toxins such as smog and noxious gases are even drifting into the Polar Regions leaving arctic birds struggling with the devastating effects of air pollution as well. Additionally, these effects extend to their habitats and can play a large role in changing the landscape of their communities. 

Noise Pollution 

Interestingly enough, just as humans have issues with too much noise, birds also are negatively effected by the effects of noise pollution. Because birds vocalize at lower frequencies, their ability to communicate is severely threatened by too much noise. This then goes on to cause bigger issues such as the inability to attract a mate and successfully socialize with other birds in the community.

Water Pollution

Oil pollution is the reason behind approximately 500,000 water birds dying each year. “Water birds” suffer greatly from oil spills that happen unexpectedly and ruin their home water areas and coat their feathers with sticky oil. When the feathers of a bird are covered in oil they lose their waterproof protection causing their skin to become exposed to the elements and putting them at risk. Additionally, birds suffer various sicknesses and even death from water pollution when they attempt to clean their feathers and ingest the oil.

Endangered Bird Species in the US

Unfortunately, pollution is not the only thing killing our birds. In fact, the list of North America’s most endangered bird species is shockingly long due to over development, hunting, cars, electrocution, wind turbines, pesticides, disease, and so much more. These extraordinary creatures have survived this planet for over 160 million years and are considered extant incarnations of the dinosaurs. The fact that today’s birds have survived this long is a phenomenal example of evolution at work. Yet sadly, not all bird species are able to achieve a long legacy and many species right here in the United States will soon become extinct from our planet forever. The following are just a few of those endangered bird species.

California Condor

This gorgeous creature has been on the endangered list for almost 40 years with number slowly declining every year. Since 1967 captive breeding programs are helping to swell the population, but still no more than 200 of these birds currently exist. The main threat to the California Condor is man due to poisoning from pollution (as mentioned above), collision with power lines, poaching, and developments causing loss of habitat.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Once widely populating the southeastern coast of the US, this bird’s habitat was destroyed by logging and was officially announced distinct in 1987. However in 2004, ornithologists discovered the species was, in fact, not completely exist. However the bird is so rare only one ivory-billed woodpecker has ever been seen at one time. Federal programs are currently in place to seek out more of these woodpeckers and to protect any known habitat.

Whooping Crane

From Canada to Mexico, the Whooping Crane used to have a robust population. However, in the 1800s it became popular for game hunting and they slowly started dying off. By 1941 only 20 existed. Despite efforts to breed these birds in captivity less than 500 of these species remain.

Gunnison Sage-Grouse

With only 500 of these birds left on the planet, loss of habitat is their greatest threat. They typically live in the desert of the southwestern United States. However the constant development to accommodate oil and gas activities including roads, these birds are quickly dying off. There is currently no program in order to protect and preserve their habitat.

Kitland’s Warbler

These tiny songbirds weigh in at only half an ounce and nest almost exclusively in the jack pine forests of Michigan. Unlike most endangered birds, for this particular species, humans aren’t the only ones to blame. Factors such as heat from naturally occurring forest fires and other birds are the Warbler’s greatest threats. Often other bird species lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and the Warbler is no exception. When the other bird eggs hatch, they often out-compete the warbler chicks for food, resulting in numerous fatalities for the already struggling birds. In the early ‘90s there were less than 200 of these birds left, but conservation efforts are slowly helping this bird make a comeback.

For bird lovers, there’s nothing more upsetting than knowing that so many bird species are fighting for their lives. Whether they are suffering because of loss of habitat due to overdevelopment, hunting, or other reasons, it is extremely important for more conservation and preservation to take place. Education and action are key to not only keeping the situation from getting worse, but to help it get better. Luckily, there are many heroes of bird conservation who volunteer their time and efforts to save these fantastic and beautiful creatures.


Birds Suffer from Air Pollution Just Like We Do:

New Evidence that Urban Water Pollution is Harming Birds:

Noise Pollution Alters Bird Behavior:

Endangered Birds of North America:

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