[Related: More than half of U.S. birds could disappear]
One hundred years after the demise of the last passenger pigeon -- one of the most abundant species ever -- every type of bird except those that inhabit wetlands has been in decline since 1968, threatened by humans. No group is disappearing faster than those living in what the report calls arid lands -- the deserts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Nearly half have been wiped out, mostly because of development.
In America's grassland's, small breeding birds, such as the eastern meadowlark and the bobolink have declined by about 40 percent. The report tries to look at the bright side, that the steep drop has leveled off since 1990 because of conservation efforts.
State of the Birds 2014 isn't the work of a single nonprofit or government group operating on a thin budget. It was authored by the U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, a partnership of 23 government agencies including the Smithsonian Institution and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other groups, such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Bird Conservancy.
Amid much grim news about how birds are dying in the skies and on the ground, they try to offer hope that conservation efforts are making a difference.
“This report highlights the threats that birds face, but it also offers hope for their future if we act together,” Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian, said in a statement. “I am gratified that the Smithsonian contributed to this important effort, which shows that collaboration among agencies and organizations can yield valuable insights into difficult challenges.”
As part of the initiative, organizers created a State of the Bird Watch List. On that list are 230 species that are endangered or will be endangered without strong conservation efforts. That number approaches half of all species in North America.
It's not that shorebirds on the list, such as the piping plover and red knot that skim the shores, aren't threatened once they migrate south: They are harvested by the tens of thousands in South America and on Caribbean islands.
In a statement calling climate change another threat that looms as "one of the biggest challenges to habitat conservation for all species in the 21st century, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell didn't dwell on that negative, saying wildlife refuges and parks will continue to act as havens for birds that roost throughout the nation.