Science

Rising Sea Levels May Cause Saltmarsh Sparrow And Other American Birds To Be Extinct

By Christie Abagon , Nov 29, 2016 10:21 AM EST
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Recent study suggests that the Saltmarsh Sparrow is suffering a massive population decline in Connecticut over the past few years.  Connecticut Audubon Society specialists say that the species might become extinct in fifty years.

In the annual Connecticut State of Birds Report, Milan Bull, senior director of the society said: "It would be the first avian extinction in the continental U.S. since the Heath Hen in 1931.  There's no way to characterize that as anything but a disaster."

The Rising Sea Level And Loss Of Habitat Are To Blame

Saltmarsh sparrows are disappearing from the East Coast.  They live in coastal areas from Maine to Virginia during the breeding season and migrate to the south during winter.  One of the researchers focusing on the bird, Professor Brian Olsen from the University of Maine, said that the bird's population has dropped about 9 percent every year since 1998.  Sea-level rise is to blame, along with other factors like structures such as roads and railways, which restrict tidal flow to salt marshes and interfere with the sparrows' habitat.

Connecticut Hopes To Produce A Bird Atlas Similar To New York's

According to the annual report, "shrubland species such as Field Sparrows, Brown Thrashers and Blue-winged Warblers continue to suffer population declines of about 5 percent a year.  Those species can nest only in shrubby fields, which have been lost to lawns or allowed to grow into mature forests."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists nearly 100 species of birds as threatened or endangered

The Connecticut Audubon Society report suggests statewide funding a survey of where birds breed.  The state of New York completed its first breeding bird atlas project three decades ago, but Connecticut still lacks this basic and indispensable inventory and data source," the report said.

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