Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Environmental Study: Over Half of New York State’s Birds Have Seen Dramatic Population Changes Since 1980...

For Immediate Release

For interviews contact:
Kevin J. McGowan at kjm2@cornell.edu
Kimberley Corwin at kjcorwin@gw.dec.state.ny.us

For additional information contact:
Jonathan Hall at jlh98@cornell.edu

Ithaca, NY (1/07/2009) -- A new atlas on the birds of New York reveals that during the past two decades over half of New York State’s bird populations have seen dramatic changes in their distributions, with 70 species experiencing significant increases, 58 species experiencing serious declines, and 125 species maintaining relative stability. Among the birds showing the largest increases in New York State are Canada Goose, Wild Turkey, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, and Merlin. Those showing the largest decreases are Henslow’s Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher, Common Nighthawk, Purple Martin, and Canada Warbler. Resident woodland birds showed the greatest increases as a group, and grassland birds showed the greatest declines.

These new findings, published this month by Cornell University Press in The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State, are the result of over 140,000 hours in the field by nearly 1,200 volunteers across New York State. The atlas, edited by two prominent figures in the field, ornithologist Kevin J. McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and wildlife biologist Kimberley Corwin of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), was initiated by the New York State Ornithological Association and implemented by the NYSDEC, which provided the funding, management personnel, oversight, direction, and data capture and management. The majority of the funding came from the state tax check-off program, “Return a Gift to Wildlife.”

“This new atlas was truly an incredible team effort by the citizens of New York,” said Kevin J. McGowan. “From those who funded it with small donations via their tax returns to the impressive volunteers who collected the data, the atlas is an inspired monument to the dedication and love New Yorkers have for their wildlife.”

Added Kimberley Corwin, “And what’s more, New Yorkers have considerably helped bird populations by planting trees and shrubs that provide food and cover, supporting conservation organizations, and participating in cutting-edge programs such as the Landowner Incentive Program, which we think is outstanding.”

The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State will be an invaluable resource for the DEC and other state agencies involved in land management and conservation, as well as counties and towns who make management decisions on smaller scales. Data will also be used at the national level by federal agencies, non-governmental agencies such as the NY Natural Heritage Program and Audubon, as well as universities across the country.