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April 22, 2014

Bird Watch: How to Help Five US Species Threatened by Watershed Pollution

The effects of watershed contamination are felt by all of the species that inhabit a local community, from humans to insects. However, some wildlife groups are impacted more than others, suffering from loss of habitat and disrupted breeding patterns, the frequent consequences of careless human activity. This post will introduce you to five bird species that have been hit particularly hard by watershed pollution in their areas. If these birds make a home in your community, crowdfunding is a good way to start giving them the extra protection they need. But first, know who to look out for:

Common Loon

Common Loon

Common Loon (Gavia immer) in the Morro Bay, CA Estuary

Photos by Shawn McCready and Mike Baird.

This elegant predator can be found sailing across lakes throughout the northern US. It is incredibly susceptible to toxic pollution in its environment, and human activity can easily disrupt nesting and brood-raising schedules. The Common Loon has been listed as threatened or endangered in areas of northeastern America.

In addition to taking regular pollution-reducing steps, thus lessening your possible impact on the species’ environment, you can help protect Common Loons by learning where their nesting areas are in your community. With the help of your local parks department, you can ensure that this sensitive species has a peaceful resting spot in your community’s watershed.

Interior Least Tern

Endangered interior least tern (Sterna antillarum)

Endangered interior least tern (Sterna antillarum)

Photos by USFWS Endangered Species: top & bottom.

This little shorebird faces some huge threats from habitat destruction. Although the species was once plentiful along Midwestern riverbanks, human development, ranging from hydroelectric dams to housing developments, has made it hard for these birds to find homes.

If this species lives in your area, you can help the Interior Least Tern by crowdfunding a habitat reconstruction project. Restore parts of your riverbanks to the condition they were in before human development made them uninhabitable for the birds.

Piping Plover

Piping Plover

Piping Plover (RI)

Photos by US Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region: top & bottom.

In addition to being absolutely adorable, this shorebird species is in danger of being wiped out in the Great Lakes region. Human development has made it increasingly difficult for these birds to nest. As of 2008, only 63 breeding pairs remained in the area. Intensive conservation efforts have helped the Piping Plover start its recovery, but the battle is not over yet.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is still looking for volunteers to help monitor the nests of this sensitive species. Although federal grants have largely funded the habitat restoration efforts for this species (as well as the fences used to protect young chicks from predators like foxes and housecats), your local fish and wildlife agency may still need some additional funds to help in its efforts to protect the Piping Plover.

Kirtland’s Warbler

Endangered Kirtland's warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii)

Endangered Kirtland's warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii)

Photos by US Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters: top & bottom.

Although this colorful woodland bird is recovering, the grim reality is that watershed pollution has made it a “conservation-reliant species”. Once threatened with extinction by harmful human activity, the Kirtland’s Warbler now relies on helpful human activity for its survival.

If you live in one of the areas where the Kirtland’s Warbler is making its perpetual comeback, you can help by volunteering or providing funds for the conservation efforts for this species. These efforts are geared toward returning its habitat to a more warbler-friendly state. Using controlled burns, cowbird removal programs, and plant species control efforts, government agencies and activist groups are working together to safeguard this species.

Red Knot

Red Knot

Red Knot and Horseshoe Crab

Photos by Jason Crotty and US Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region.

Although this bird travels from the Arctic Circle to the coasts of Chile, the Red Knot may face threats right in your community. The species depends on horseshoe crabs for its food, and its population suffers when the numbers of horseshoe crabs drop.

You can help preserve the Red Knot by keeping your community’s harbors and shorelines clean, and by finding out about local efforts to preserve this bird’s food source. In addition, you can help this and a number of other shore bird species by crowdfunding bird protection measures such as fenced-off feeding areas and fishing line recycling containers.

Shorebirds

Photo by jcapaldi (Flickr).

Watershed pollution is a vast problem, and it is important to remember that some species are affected much more drastically than others. Taking steps to protect vulnerable bird populations is an essential part of any well-rounded watershed protection campaign. Although each species has unique needs when it comes to conservation, they will all benefit from a habitat that is kept free of litter and other pollutants.

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Posted by Mark Contorno.

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