California's Common Birds in Decline

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Population declines for some of the most recognized and beloved birds in California echo the disturbing findings of a new analysis by the National Audubon Society that reveals how local, national and global threats are combining to take a toll on birds, habitat, and the environment across the country.

Audubon's Common Birds in Decline list stems from the first-ever analysis combining annual sighting data from Audubon's century-old Christmas Bird Count program with results of the annual Breeding Bird Survey conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey. Tens of thousands of citizens contributed to collecting this data over the years.

The national study found that populations of some common birds nosedived over the past forty years, with several down nearly 80 percent. In California, Northern Pintail, Horned Lark, and Loggerhead Shrike topped the list with declines between 96 and 75%, mirroring national trends in the same species. The dramatic national declines are attributed to habitat loss and fragmentation with future losses expected as a result of global warming.


Declines in familiar birds of California since 1967. Table lists percentage decrease in non-breeding (Christmas Bird Counts) and breeding seasons (Breeding Bird Surveys). Dashes indicate a migratory species.


What You Can Do

Protect Local Habitat
Join local Audubon Chapters and other groups to protect and restore habitats close to home. Audubon’s Important Bird Areas program helps to identify and protect critical sites for birds across California. Learn more at

Promote Sound Agricultural Policy
This policy has enormous impact on grassland birds and habitat, including Western Meadowlarks and Horned Larks. Promoting strong conservation provisions in the federal Farm Bill and Conservation Reserve Program can help to protect millions of acres of vital habitat.

Protect Wetlands
Support for local, state and federal wetlands conservation programs is essential to protect a wide array of species. Learn more at

Fight Global Warming
The decline of common birds is just one impact of global warming’s mounting threat to people and wildlife around the world. Individual energy conservation along with strong federal, state, and local legislation to cap greenhouse emissions can help to curb its worst consequences. Learn more at

Combat Invasive Species
Invasive non-native species disrupt the delicate ecological balance that sustains birds and other wildlife. Federal, regional, state, and local regulations are needed to combat this growing environmental threat. Learn more at The Audubon At Home program offers tips for supporting birds with native plants at

What Audubon California Is Doing

1) Conservation & Restoration
A network of sanctuaries owned and managed by Audubon where we are restoring native habitats to benefit birds and other wildlife. These sanctuaries provide a place where Californians can connect with nature and learn about native species and habitat restoration.

Audubon works with California’s ranching and farming community to help ensure that stewardship of private lands helps protect birds and other wildlife. Learn more about our Landowner Stewardship Program at

Audubon has identified over 150 Important Bird Areas in California that provide critical habitat for birds. Audubon works with partners to help protect and monitor these sites (see:

Audubon also works closely with public agencies like California State Parks and California’s Department of Fish and Game to protect and restore habitat and private partners like PRBO-Conservation Science, Defenders of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy.

Audubon has programs focused on specific bird species like Snowy Plover, California Condor and Tricolored Blackbird (see

2) Public Policy & Public Funding for Conservation
Audubon actively supports public investment through Proposition 84, the federal Farm Bill, and other measures to help protect and restore our wetlands, river corridors, parklands and open spaces.

Audubon also advocates for legislation and regulations to help protect birds and habitat. One important example is the protection of wetlands and riparian habitat. The State Water Resources Control Board has initiated a rulemaking to adopt a statewide wetlands and riparian area protection policy and is likely to finalize rules within a year. At a federal level Audubon supports legislation to strengthen the Clean Water Act in order to protect wetlands. For more information see: (

3) Education & Public Outreach
Audubon has over 50,000 members and 48 chapters around California with active volunteers who help monitor bird populations through Audubon Christmas Bird Counts and other citizen science projects. Audubon chapters are also strong advocates within their communities for the protection of birds and bird habitat. Audubon chapters offer more than 1,000 field trips each year in California and our network of Audubon education centers and programs reach more than 100,000 Californians each year.

Audubon encourages Californians to provide healthy urban habitat for birds through programs like Audubon at Home (see:

How you can help, right now