Connecticut State of the Birds 2022: These Species Tell the Story of Conservation Over 125 Years, and Point to the Issues of the Future
December 1, 2022 — Connecticut Audubon’s 2022 State of the Birds report, released today, looks at the health and future of five groups of birds, in Connecticut and beyond, whose conservation history is tied closely to the history of environmental conservation in the United States.
Titled “125 Years of Bird Conservation Through Local Action,” the report marks the 125th anniversary of the Connecticut Audubon Society, which was founded in January 1898. Among the report’s findings:
- Bald Eagles have made a strong comeback and they now nest in 67 of Connecticut’s 169 towns.
- Coastal wading birds such as egrets and night-herons made a remarkable comeback in Connecticut but their nesting colonies are now restricted to a mere 5 islands in Long Island Sound.
- Shorebirds continue to struggle. When Connecticut Audubon was founded, their chief threat was market hunters. Now they are vulnerable to shoreline development and climate change. Nonetheless Connecticut has become a stronghold of the American Oystercatcher.
- Ducks and geese have recovered across the continent from decades of wetlands destruction, and yet seemingly common species such as Mallards and American Black Ducks are suffering through hard times in Connecticut.
- The European Starling, an invasive species long reviled for being detrimental to native birds, is in decline and might not even have been as harmful as presumed in the first place.
”This report shows that the work to conserve birds is never over,” said Patrick Comins, Connecticut Audubon’s executive director. “Connecticut Audubon is proud to have been among the leaders of that work since the start. But there’s more to be done, and we will be just as involved in the future as in the past.”
Connecticut Audubon has published its State of the Birds report annually since 2006. Each year, the report examines an aspect of bird life or conservation in Connecticut. The report is written by regional and national experts. To get a PDF of the report, scroll to the bottom and fill out the form.
Its goal is to help set the conservation agenda for non-profit organizations and for state and local governments.
This year’s authors are
- Milan Bull, Connecticut Audubon’s senior director of science and conservation;
- Paul Schmidt, director of Road to Recovery/R2R, and former chief conservation officer for Ducks Unlimited;
- Brian Hess, wildlife biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection;
- Julia Zichello, Ph.D., doctoral lecturer at Hunter College, the City University of New York;
- Elizabeth Amendola, coastal program coordinator for Audubon Connecticut.
Connecticut State of the Birds is edited by Tom Andersen, Connecticut Audubon’s communications director.
The 125th anniversary is significant because Connecticut Audubon was founded by Mabel Osgood Wright, a visionary leader who helped start the modern bird conservation movement, which led to the protection of songbirds, hawks and owls, shorebirds, waterfowl, and gamebirds.
The report shows that much of what we take for granted now as standard conservation practices and achievements started with the goal of protecting birds. To give three examples:
- The grassroots organizations such as Connecticut Audubon that are now the foundation of environmental advocacy were formed to stop the slaughter of herons, egrets and other birds for the plume trade (“Hats Off to the Conservationists Who Saved the Egrets and Started a Movement,” by Milan Bull, page 2 of the report).
- Government wetlands protection began as a way to rebuild declining numbers of ducks and geese (“Vulnerable to Wetland Loss but Responsive to Conservation Work, Waterfowl Are Doing Well in North America, For Now,” by Paul Schmidt, page 15).
- The recognition of the dangers of pesticides, and the banning of DDT specifically, followed the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring when scientists and officials realized Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons were nearing extinction (“Raptors Are Back and in Good Shape. The Effort it Took Was Enormous,” by Brian Hess, page 18).
Connecticut Audubon has remained an independent organization since its founding. It has centers in Fairfield, Pomfret, Old Lyme, Milford, and Sherman, a program in the greater Hartford area, and an EcoTravel program based in Essex. Its state headquarters is at Birdcraft Sanctuary in Fairfield.
Birdcraft, considered the first private songbird sanctuary in the country, is now a National Historic Landmark.