Audubon Report Tracks Riparian Bird Habitat Decline In The West

Published: Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - 2:12pm
Updated: Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - 3:08pm
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(Photo courtesy of Havasu National Wildlife Refuge)
The southwestern willow flycatcher is federally endangered.

Riparian habitats are less than 5 percent of the Southwestern landscape, but support more than 40 percent of all the bird species found here. The Audubon Society released a new report to help build a more sustainable future for river birds in the West.

The report takes a comprehensive look at impacts of climate change and human use to the Colorado River Basin — a declining habitat for Arizona birds like the Southwestern willow flycatcher and Western yellow-billed cuckoo.

“I hate to use the canary in the coal mine, but it’s sort of a sign of the health of our systems as well,” said Sonia Perillo, executive director of Audubon Arizona.

The report focuses on western states and compiled data on year over year change on the Colorado. Perillo said fewer riparian habitats also means fewer birders, who come and contribute to the economy.

“Birders are almost guaranteed of seeing the birds they would like to see because they’re so concentrated," she said. "So from the economic perspective I think it’s also very important.”

The Audubon report lays out potential water policy changes to help boost the birds’ critical habitat in the future.

The report documents how the habitats have declined over the years and how collaborating between water users and policy makers could protect them in the future.

“As we look ahead at what may be coming it’s important for us to be thinking about the impacts of our water management decisions as they relate to both all of us who live here in Arizona, as well as the birds we care about and the riparian systems they need,” Perillo said.

Perillo said the report along with the grassroots Western Rivers Action Network can help preserve and boost river habitat in Arizona.

(Graphics by Lotem Taylor - National Audubon Society)

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