In the 1980s, numerous scientific surveys documented both declining bird populations, especially among Neotropical songbirds that winter in the tropics, and the loss of tropical rain forest habitat. Drawing the seemingly obvious conclusion, scientists and environmental activists linked songbird declines to loss of tropical habitats and alerted the world to an impending ecological catastrophe. Their warnings led to the establishment of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Program, also known as Partners in Flight, the self-proclaimed largest conservation effort in history. Looking back over more than a decade of efforts to save migrant birds, John Faaborg offers the first serious evaluation of the state of songbird populations today, the effectiveness of conservation programs such as Partners in Flight, and the reliability and completeness of scientific research on migrant birds. Taking neither an alarmist nor a complacent approach, he shows that many factors besides habitat loss affect bird populations and that Neotropical migrants as a group are not declining dramatically, though some species adapt to habitat alteration more successfully than others. Faaborg’s state-of-the-art survey thus clarifies the kinds of information we will need and the conservation efforts we should undertake to ensure the long-term survival of Neotropical migrant birds.
About the Author
JOHN FAABORG is Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia.