Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

Director Updates

Birds in Peril Resources

By Retired Director William Mueller

Birds face many threats today, and those threats could be magnified by recent attempts to weaken their protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act. This blog post by former Observatory Director Bill Mueller spells out the issues. 

Threats to birds: learn about them Birds face many threats to their health, well-being, and survival. Some already exist in nature and are not caused or controlled by humans. (Storms, disease, parasites, and predation are major sources of mortality and injury.) But human activity in the modern world has increased the number, severity, and complexity of anthropogenic, or human-caused, threats -- not only to individual birds, but also to populations, regional or local sub-populations, or entire species or subspecies at differing geographic scales.

Here are some important sources of mortality, displacement, and injury to birds:

Habitat loss
Read about habitat loss at these links from the American Bird Conservancy and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

Habitat alteration or fragmentation
Loss of habitat also has negative effects on birds. Read a paper linked here:

Effects of feral or free-ranging cats on birds
The enormous effect of cats on wild birds and other wildlife species cannot be overstated. An issues paper on this topic prepared by the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership can be found here:
http://www.wisconsinbirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/catsbirds-1.pdfThis valuable paper about free-ranging domestic cats, published in the journal Nature, has also been highly read:

Effects of pesticides or other chemicals
This issues paper from the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership contains excellent sources of information about pesticides:

Threats specific to migration
Birds face specific threats during migration.  It may be the time of highest mortality in the annual cycle for those species that move distances between breeding and winter ranges. Read more here:

Lead poisoning
Lead affects birds in multiple ways. Birds can pick up lead fragments or lead shot, or lead fishing tackle, and then be poisoned by those fragments or other lead items. Here are several informative links:

Effects of climate change
The effects of climate change on birds are complex and far-reaching, extending into multiple aspects of birds' life cycles. Read more at these two links:

Window and glass collisions
Many millions of birds are killed by collisions with glass; much of this is avoidable. Learn more at these links:

Collisions with communication towers and/or wind turbines
Here's a paper on the effects of collisions with communications towers:
https://www.fws.gov/birds/bird-enthusiasts/threats-to-birds/collisions/communication-towers.phpHere is an issues paper from the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership on birds and wind power:
Here is a very new paper on this and related topics: