The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Midwest Region applauds the release of the 2011 State of the Birds Report, the nation’s first assessment of birds on lands and waters owned by the American people.

The report concludes that public lands including the more than 50 national wildlife refuges (NWR) in the Midwest Region offer significant opportunities to halt or reverse the decline of many bird species. More than 500 bird species spend a portion of their life cycle in the Midwestern states of Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, 85 of which are federally threatened, endangered, or of conservation concern.  

“The Midwest Region hosts not only critical habitat for breeding waterfowl, but also important grassland, wetland and forest habitats for a broad spectrum of migratory birds,” said Regional Director Tom Melius of the Service’s Midwest Region. “The 2011 State of the Birds report analyzes how public lands, like our national wildlife refuges and national forests, play key roles in the ongoing conservation of these species.”

The report provides a scientific tool to help public agencies identify the most significant conservation opportunities in the forest, wetland and grassland habitats:

Forests: Public lands include some of the largest unfragmented blocks of forest, which are crucial for the long-term health of many bird species, including the endangered Kirtland’s warbler, which has 97 percent of its U.S. distribution on public lands and breeds entirely in the Midwest Region.  

The Service’s Seney NWR works alongside national forests in Michigan and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Kirtland’s warbler recovery and conservation through regular habitat management, monitoring and research, and education.

The golden-winged warbler, a species of concern in the Midwest, has been declining continuously at a rate of 3.4 percent per year since 1966.  With 75 percent of the global population breeding in the upper Midwest, continued dedication from public land managers at Necedah, Rice Lake, and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuges in addition to national forests and state partners in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin is essential to retaining this hemispheric traveler on public lands.  

Continued conservation of the cerulean warbler, another species of concern because of its declining population, would be severely limited without the dedicated management efforts and intensive research occurring on public lands throughout the Midwest Region in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. These and other mature deciduous forest-nesting birds tend to occur more often on public lands, especially national forests, which have large blocks of unfragmented habitat.

Wetlands: Wetland protection has provided the “gold standard” for bird conservation. On the whole, 39 species of hunted waterfowl have increased by more than 100 percent during the past 40 years as nearly 30 million acres of wetlands have been acquired and management practices have restored bird populations.

The prairie pothole region, including portions of Iowa and Minnesota, is considered the largest breeding ground for waterfowl in the continental U.S. National wildlife refuges account for less than two percent of the landscape, yet they are responsible for producing nearly 23 percent of the region’s waterfowl.
Sustaining healthy populations of waterbirds that migrate long distances is a challenge for land managers.   U.S. Geological Survey scientists teamed up with Service biologists and land managers to launch the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring Program.  This project will help managers on national wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas understand and optimally manage lands to support continental populations of waterbirds.

Wetlands serve as significant shorebird concentration areas, many of which have been designated Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network Sites, including – Chautauqua, Ottawa, Squaw Creek, and Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuges. Several hundred thousand individuals comprised of over 35 species of shorebirds use these sites every year as gas stations along their spectacular migrations.

Grasslands: Grassland birds are among our nation’s fastest declining species, yet only a small amount – 13 percent -- of grassland is publicly owned and managed primarily for conservation. Forty-eight percent of grassland-breeding bird species are of conservation concern, including four with endangered populations.

The Service’s Litchfield and Morris Wetland Management Districts and Big Oaks and Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuges also work in conjunction with the Department of Defense, state natural resources agencies and national forests in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin, to manage, monitor and research the Henslow’s sparrow.

The Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring Partnership works to engage the public in grassland restoration activities that benefit Henslow’s sparrow, bobolink, dickcissel, Eastern meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow, greater prairie-chicken and upland sandpiper populations on public lands.

Gamebirds: Half of the resident game bird species in the U.S. have more than 50 percent of their U.S. distribution on public lands.   Access to public lands provides hunting opportunities for millions of people each year.  However, public land managers must work with adjacent private entities to surmount the challenges of managing bird populations.

The Upper Great Lakes Young Forest Initiative provides a forum for advancing American woodcock conservation through close partnerships of state agencies, national forests, and national wildlife refuges by incorporating the best available science into conservation planning, habitat management, and monitoring project success.  

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative is extending its reach northward as it tackles the issue of declining eastern grasslands for both game and non-game bird species on public and private lands.  

The report assessed the distribution of birds on more than 1 million acres of public land in the Midwest, utilizing high-performance computing techniques to generate detailed bird distribution maps based on citizen-science data reported to eBird and information from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Protected Areas Database of the United States.

The 2011 State of the Birds report is a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, involving federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organizations. These include the American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Department of Defense, the National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

More information on birds on public lands in the Midwest can be found here.

For a complete list of where to find birds in Midwest states (MO, IA, MN, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH) based on habitat type, visit here.

For a full list of birds of concern in the Midwest Region, visit here

The full report is available here.