Audubon WatchList includes SE birds

Posted: Friday, September 03, 2010

Audubon Alaska has released its 2010 Alaska WatchList for declining and vulnerable bird species and subspecies for the state, several of which fly throughout Southeast Alaska.

Matt Kirchhoff, Audubon Alaska's director of bird conservation, named several species on the list that nest, migrate or can otherwise be spotted around Juneau or nearby areas, particularly in the spring, summer and fall. Such species include the Rusty Blackbird, Rock Sandpiper, Black-footed Albatross, Surfbird, Wandering Tattler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Aleutian Tern, Dunlin, and both the Marbled and Kittlitz's Murrelets.

These birds are labeled as having declining or depressed populations.

Kirchhoff said while several species on the list are found throughout North America, some species, such as the Spruce Grouse on Prince of Wales and Northern Goshawk at Queen Charlotte, are native to Southeast.

The population status of the Spruce Grouse is unknown, but Kirchhoff said it's estimated to be less than 25,000.

The subspecies, Short-billed Dowitcher, also has an unknown but small population. It breeds exclusively in Alaska and can be seen in Southeast.

Communications manager Beth Peluso said a lot of birds on the list can be seen in Juneau during their migration patterns. She said others, such as the Black Oystercatcher, nest in the area.

Even birds that are common sights can make it onto the list. Peluso, who used to live in Juneau, gave the Varied Thrush as an example.

"I saw these a lot. I was surprised to see they're declining," she said.

Kirchhoff said this particular species also caught his interest.

"I don't know if it's declining here, but it is in other parts of the nation," he said.

He also gave the Lesser Yellowlegs as a bird Juneauites might be accustomed to recognizing. According to the WatchList, these are in rapid decline.

The WatchList labels the global thrush population at 30 million, but stated that number is declining at about 3 to 4 percent a year.

Some species, such as the Black Turnstone, are also on the list but labeled as having stable populations.

Kirchhoff said the WatchList serves as an early warning system to coordinate research and management for the listed birds. He said it's a research tool and just because a species is listed does not mean it's endangered.

"They're not critically in peril, but we need to keep our eye on them," he said.

He cited "keeping common birds common" as a motto at Audubon Alaska and said these species are ones that will have to be watched to be kept that way.

Kirchhoff said the list was compiled using collected information about various species' population rates, breeding surveys, range sizes and other factors, such as percentages of global populations that are in Alaska.

The full WatchList can be viewed at www.audubonalaska.org.



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