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Adirondack's Boreal Bird Species Declining: Report

Apr 12, 2014 10:12 AM EDT
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Some of the Adirondack's most iconic birds are in trouble, vulnerable to climate change and declines in the size of their wetland habitats, according to a new study.

Several species of boreal forest bird find the southernmost extent of their range in the The Adirondack Park, which encompasses much of the northeastern lobe of New York state.

Michale Glennon, science director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Adirondack Program, reports that several species of Adirondack birds are more likely to disappear from smaller, isolated wetlands that are near development.

"When I incorporate data collected since 2011, I am seeing declines for all species except palm warbler, some modest but some of them more troubling," Glennon said in a statement. "The number of boreal wetlands occupied by five species - rusty blackbird, gray jay, yellow-bellied flycatcher, olive-sided flycatcher, and black-backed woodpecker - has decreased by 15 percent or more since 2007."

The study included analysis of yellow-bellied flycatchers, Lincoln's sparrows, yellow palm warblers, black-backed woodpeckers, gray jays, olive-sided flycatchers, boreal chickadees, and rusty blackbirds.

The data revealed four of the eight species in the study were in decline. Two species populations appeared to be stable, and the the Lincoln's sparrow and palm warbler appeared to be increasing in the Adirondack landscape.

"The species in question are icons of the area and a big reason bird-watchers come to the Adirondacks," Glennon said. "It is alarming to think that we can lose them here, of all places. They are very specialized species, however, and have specific habitat needs. In addition to the stresses of a warming climate, they may face competition and displacement from more cosmopolitan birds like blue jays which tend to come along with residential development."

Zoe Smith, the WCS Adirondack Program Director, said: "Understanding the processes that drive the dynamics of boreal birds in the Adirondacks can enhance the ability of land managers to influence their long-term conservation."

Glennon reported her findings in the journal Northeastern Naturalist.

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