Are Birds Declining, or Not?

Why is this Controversial?
You would think that it would be easy to figure out if a species is increasing or declining. Sometimes it is- there are some species (such as Northern Bobwhite or Loggerhead Shrike) that are so consistently declining that few have the gumption to question it. Most of the time, though, species are decreasing in some locations (or time periods), but increasing elsewhere- and people who analyze the survey have to decide 3 issues: As noted elsewhere on the web site, all of these items are sometimes difficult to figure. Also, people often are interested in groups of species, such as grassland-breeding birds, that they think might all be declining due to some common cause. Analysis of species groups introduces a further complication: How do we account for the fact that the quality of our estimates of population change differ among species, and species tend to have different ranges, so in different regions that species in the groups can differ? The overall summary statistic given at the start of this section (51.5 %) is for 421 species, over the entire survey area, for a 31 year time period. It provides some information, but clearly hides a lot of detail of importance to managers.
So, our philosopy in this summary has been to provide users with all the information, at (almost) any scale, with a options for analysis methods. Using these tools, you should be able to either answer the questions to your satisfaction, or at least completely confuse yourself.
Here, however, we provide some summary information that lets you know what we think about population change. There aren't a lot of surprises here; if you've been paying attention, you have seen some of the recent work on these topics (e.g., Robinson 1997 , Peterjohn et al. 1996, Sauer et al. 1996, James et al. 1996). With a few exceptions, researchers generally agree on the large-scale patterns of population change.
Address and telephone:
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
12100 Beech Forest Road, Suite 4039
Laurel, Maryland 20708-4039 USA
Telephone: 301-497-5500 Fax: 301-497-5505
Last updated 4/23/97