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Audubon releases list of birds at risk

Trumpeter swan chick
The well-known trumpeter swan is one of many included on the WatchList   
January 30, 1998
Web posted at: 11:36 a.m. EDT (1136 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Working from the premise that it's easier to avoid potential problems than clean up after they strike, the National Audubon Society and several other conservation groups have released the second annual WatchList -- a roster of bird species at risk of becoming endangered.

"These are species that are showing decline. The decline may be 1 to 5 percent a year, or the habitats on which they depend, we now know are disappearing bit by bit, every year," said Frank Gill, the society's vice president for science.

Only full species recognized by the American Ornithologists' Union can be put on the WatchList, and species already listed federally as "threatened" or "endangered" are excluded.

Watch Bruce Burkhardt's report as seen on CNN
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This year's WatchList includes some of North America's best-known birds, including the red-headed woodpecker, the trumpeter swan, and the painted bunting.

In fact, researchers say one of every six North American bird species is showing signs of trouble. The WatchList is presented as a tool to help the birds before they alight upon the federal endangered list -- as a sort of "preventive medicine," Gill said. (icon 111K/9 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The desire to keep common birds common is driving a nationwide conservation campaign   

In addition to helping some flagging bird populations, the Audubon Society hopes the list will serve as an educational tool for students, a nudge to the checkbooks of potential donors, and a way to build society membership.

Meanwhile, birdwatchers are being encouraged to keep an eye out for the species on the WatchList, count them, and report the data to Audubon scientists monitoring bird populations.

Gill says the value of birds to society is three-fold. They matter to the economy, "because birdwatchers spend money," and to birdwatchers, who derive pleasure from their hobby. (icon 204K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

But most of all, Gill said, "Birds are an indicator of a healthy environment."


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