A recent State of the Birds report and Science article reveal that North America has lost nearly 3 billion breeding birds since 1970 – that’s a staggering 29 percent of all birds!
The results show tremendous losses across diverse groups of birds and habitats. However, the news is not all bad. Some bird populations, like waterfowl and raptors, have been improving due to dedicated efforts to understanding the problems and by developing science-based solutions. When we invest in wildlife, gains are made.
Among the steep continental declines are Eastern forest birds — 63 percent of species are declining, resulting in a loss of 166 million forest birds. One of those species, the wood thrush, is widespread throughout Pennsylvania and its beautiful song forms the soundtrack of Penn’s Woods.
In fact, Pennsylvania is home to more than 8 percent of the global population, yet it is a Species of Greatest Conservation Need throughout the northeastern United States due to habitat loss, habitat degradation and a nationwide population decline of approximately 50 percent since the mid-1960’s.
Aiming to develop solutions for wood thrushes in Pennsylvania oak forests, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Penn State University are conducting a study on state game lands to understand forest habitats that support a greater number of wood thrush nests and produce more young.
The practice involves creating small canopy gaps consistent with small-scale forest utilization (for example, sustainable firewood harvesting). If we find that this practice is successful, we’ll share the guidance so everyone in Pennsylvania will have a simple, effective means of managing forests for wood thrushes, an important, native component of Pennsylvania forest ecosystems.
But, wood thrushes are just one of 90 bird Species of Greatest Conservation Need identified in the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan. The Game Commission is your state wildlife agency responsible for ensuring native wild birds, mammals and the habitats that sustain them are here now and into the future. Yet, over 80 percent of the species under our care lack reliable funding to safeguard their survival. Here are a few ways you can help!