Coming Together to Save Bird Species: Can It Be Done?

Prairie Warbler, one of eight focal species for PIFV's Caribbean working group. Photo by Bill Hubick.

Prairie Warbler, one of eight focal species for PIFV’s Caribbean working group.
Photo by Bill Hubick.

By Peter Marra

Day two at PIF V. Stayed up too late drinking and talking bird conservation. No regrets and I’ll do it again tonight. Now I’m in the morning session … Andean music, bird quiz … then on to the plenary talks, which took a high altitude approach to the history of conservation in Costa Rica and then to the origins of ecosystems and the incorporation of human dimensions into conservation science. But my mind keeps focusing on the task at hand: how to stop the enigmatic declines of so many migratory birds over such large areas in such a complex world.

I’m feeling dizzy, not from the late night but by the challenge in charting the course. It’s important that we spend the energy required to all get on the same page. It doesn’t just happen without effort. We’re looking at two approaches: a species approach as well as site-based conservation. I’m still looking for an explicit direction forward to save these declining species.

Later, in the morning session of the conservation business plan workshop, we focused on the Caribbean. We discussed how we deal with large-scale development—for tourism, energy extraction, and mining. These are big problems and ones in need of big solutions. We discussed a range of ideas from public service announcements with celebrities to increasing ecotourism. To succeed in turning the tide for the eight high-priority species we identified for this region, we are going to have to work hard and fast—and at times, I find myself having doubts on whether it can be done. In the short term, I am still inclined to depend on the science and look for specific geographic areas for targeted solutions.

PeterPeter Marra is a conservation scientist at the Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. 

piflogocolorThis week, ABC hosts blogs from our friends at the Partners in Flight V (PIFV) meeting taking place in Snowbird, Utah. We are delighted to spread the word about PIF’s great work to advance migratory bird conservation. For more information on the meeting, see

2 responses to “Coming Together to Save Bird Species: Can It Be Done?

  1. Wil Hershberger

    It is certainly refreshing to see that people are committed to the protection and conservation of these fragile species. It seems to me that reducing, if not eliminating, the use of pesticides that are at all harmful to birds is a major first step. Then land preservation — large areas of land need to be set aside for conservation of birds and other wildlife. Our society has reached the precipice, if we do not make some very tough decisions NOW, we will not be able to undo the damage later. We have seen it time and time again, if we give wildlife the space and time, they will return and flourish. A lot of this broad-scale conservation should have been started decades ago. I certainly hope that we can get the general public and policy makers onboard. There is no time to waste! Conservation and reintroductions must start now.

  2. I second the above commenter–getting rid of pesticides, confusing light and noise, wind farms that aren’t friendly to birds, lead ammunition are all important. So is getting indigenous community “buy-in”– all these are issues that need to be addressed–but overarching and including them all is, I think, contiguous habitat and ecosystem preservation–keeping the toxic mining, dam building, and fossil fuel extractors out and buying up the land that still remains as habitat and converting the land that is needed into continuous corridors for all the wildlife and organisms who live in and are sustained by and sustain these ecosystems. We are one web of life. In doing this, we also need to support, educate, help, and enable indigenous peoples to live sustainably in these ecosystems if they are already living there. Getting off all fossil fuels is ultimately the only way we’ll save our planet, and we could do it–if we had the will as a species. Doing this would also end the economic problems of the US and the world, because everyone would/could be working and would be needed to achieve a true transformation of how our species lives on the Earth.

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