State of the Birds Report Shows Troubling Trends, But Some Encouraging News

The 2022 U.S. State of the Birds Report was recently released, and the findings are both dire and encouraging. Published by 33 leading science and conservation organizations and agencies, the 2022 report is the first comprehensive look at the state of the country’s bird populations since the release of a  2019 study, which revealed an astounding loss of nearly 3 billion birds in the U.S. and Canada over the past 50 years. Overall, birds across the U.S. continue to exhibit downward trends in every form of habitat (eg, forest, desert, mountain, coast) except wetlands, “where comebacks of waterfowl show the power of funding and policy investments”, the report reads.

Other “lowlights” of the report:

  • More than half of all U.S. bird species are declining.
  • 1 in 4 breeding birds have been lost from the U.S. and Canada in the past 50 years.
  • There are 70 “Tipping Point” species in the U.S., defined as species that have lost two-thirds of their populations in the past 50 years, and are on track to lose another 50% in the next 50 years.

Here in the Northeast, tipping point species include:


Evening grosbeak

Seaside sparrow

Saltmarsh sparrow

LeConte’s sparrow

King eider


Lesser yellowlegs

From a more local perspective, the report does contain what could be seen as encouraging news for some eastern species: “Since 1970, the overall population for eastern forest birds shows an almost 30% loss, but that loss curve has straightened since 2009. Today, some species previously in steep decline—such as red-cockaded woodpecker—are showing modest population gains. Forest-restoration efforts in the East appear to be bending the curve of bird loss.”

Shorebirds, Seabirds See Largest Declines

According to the report, one-third of all 29 shorebird species (10 species) in the U.S. are considered Tipping Point species, with cumulative population losses exceeding 70% since 1980. Many of the challenges facing these birds are based on their international migratory travels, which leave them vulnerable to habitat loss and hunting in other countries.

“Many shorebirds make long-distance migrations, flying thousands of miles between Arctic breeding grounds and South American wintering areas—and encountering threats throughout the Western Hemisphere,” the report reads. “Shorebird populations have declined significantly in the last 40 years. Threats include disturbance and loss of stopover habitat along coastal beaches and estuaries, unregulated hunting in the Caribbean and South America, and continued draining of shallow wetlands.

“On the bright side, even the Tipping Point Shorebird species are showing signs of improvement. Though their population is collectively down by 63%, the rate of loss has slowed considerably in the past decade.

“Seabirds are another group suffering cascading declines around the world. One study documented a 70% population loss for seabirds since the 1950’s. These declines are also occurring in America’s ocean waters, where about a quarter of U.S. seabird species are designated as Tipping Point species. Seabirds spend almost their entire lives on the ocean, so they are important indicators of the health of marine ecosystems.”

The report also offers a roadmap for protecting and enhancing bird populations. This includes:

  • Supporting capacity and strong public-private partnerships to keep birds from becoming endangered. Reversing declines of birds across habitats can boost wildlife and quality of life for people in all 50 states.
  • Uniting research discoveries, emerging technologies, and social sciences to pinpoint acute causes of species declines and reveal data-driven insights for reversing those trends.
  • Generating solutions that work, based on collective knowledge, participation, and mutual goals from communities, businesses, scientists, land managers, and decision-makers.