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Protect and Recover

1. Protect and Recover Species at Greatest Risk

Many of the species at greatest risk have very limited distributions in highly threatened habitats. The most effective conservation measures, therefore, will often be sitespecific, and in some cases species-specific. A network of protected areas in the most critical habitats and sites, and implementation of endangered species laws, will help prevent the immediate loss of these species. These measures must take into account cultural, social, and economic issues that influence land uses and integrate bird conservation with sustainable land management. Commitment from landowners, investors, scientific institutions, and governments is essential.

Build Networks of Protected Areas in Tropical Forests

Most landbird species of highest tri-national conservation concern depend on tropical highland and pine-oak forests of the Mexican mountains, tropical deciduous forests on the Pacific slope of Mexico, and tropical evergreen forests from southern Mexico through Central America. Despite the accelerating degradation and loss of habitats, these regions still support high tropical diversity and a high abundance of temperate migrants. The striking overlap in distribution among high-concern residents and shared migrants highlights the need for a strong network of protected areas along Mexico's Pacific Coast and in narrow highland regions from Tamaulipas and Chihuahua south to Chiapas. Financial support by our three national governments, in partnership with local communities, governments, and non-government organizations, will be critical for protecting these forests.

 Overlap of At-Risk Residents and Shared Migrants 

The winter ranges of shared migrants show a striking geographic overlap with the ranges of species at greatest risk of extinction. More than 100 of the migrants shared substantially among our three countries depend on the same tropical and pine-oak forests that support highly threatened tropical residents.

SierradeManantlan_p23.jpgProtecting and managing critical habitats

Natural Protected Areas in Mexico have varying levels of protection and sustainability, supporting some habitat needs for almost all of the most at-risk bird species. Nevertheless, important gaps must be addressed, mainly for species with very limited distributions listed as endangered under Mexican law. Reserves can be owned and protected at many levels by all governments, as well as communal, indigenous, private, and non-government groups.

The Sierra de Manantlán, pictured here, is one of 37
Biosphere Reserves in Mexico, protecting 139,577 hectares of terrestrial and aquatic habitats.

Important Bird Area programs in all three countries have identified the most critical sites for bird conservation, based on a set of globally accepted criteria; many of these sites remain unprotected, however. These include nearly 600 globally significant IBAs in Canada, 383 IBAs in the United States, and 230 AICAs in Mexico. IBA databases are a critical resource for identifying gaps in protection and for recommending protected areas for species of high continental concern.

  Photo by Kenneth V. Rosenberg 

The ranges of 37 shared migrants that winter in tropical evergreen forests overlap completely with the ranges of many high-concern tropical residents. These migrants predominantly breed in eastern temperate and boreal forests. For example, Wood Thrush and Kentucky Warbler winter in the same tracts of lowland forest in southeastern Mexico as the resident and highly threatened Slaty-tailed Trogon and Lovely Cotinga. Protecting these habitats therefore supports birds in all three countries.

The Wood Thrush (left) is a migrant that winters in tropical evergreen forests of southern Mexico, overlapping completely with the range of the Slaty-tailed Trogon (right), a high-concern tropical resident.
Photos by Roger Ericksson and Gerry Dewaghe

High-Concern Tropical Residents


Species Wintering in Tropical Evergreen Forest

Overlaid year-round distributions of high-concern tropical resident species (top) compared with ranges of migrants that winter in tropical evergreen forests (bottom).


Fully Implement National Endangered Species Laws

The number of species in danger of extinction is growing at an alarming rate: 80% of the species of highest tri-national concern identified by the PIF assessment are federally listed under species at risk legislation in at least one of the three countries and 32% are considered globally endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (see Appendix B). We can reduce the conservation risk for listed species by implementing the recovery components of national endangered species laws and other related wildlife conservation legislation. Each country should ensure that sufficient amounts of critical habitat are protected for all endangered species throughout their life cycles.

Photo by Gene Yeh


The Peregrine Falcon represents a dramatic success story in endangered species recovery. The banning of harmful pesticides, such as DDT, coupled with
intensive recovery efforts in the United States and Canada, resulted in a steady increase in peregrine populations nearly throughout their original range. In 1999, the peregrine was removed from the United States Endangered Species list, and in 2007, Canadian peregrine populations were downlisted to Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Species at risk can make remarkable recoveries if listed with ample time for recovery activities to have an impact. This will require that nations ensure timely assessment of species that addresses knowledge gaps. Although proactive conservation is more cost-effective, recovery is the last chance for landbirds on the verge of extinction.

Coordinating conservation measures for endangered species across countries and species can leverage funds and amplify successes. For example, the Mesoamerican Pineoak Conservation Alliance protects critical habitat for the Golden-cheeked Warbler and other migratory and resident birds in threatened pine-oak habitats throughout Central America. Partners such as Pronatura Sur and The Nature Conservancy add significantly to government-led endangered species recovery. 

Photos (Top-bottom) by Dave Krueper, Adán Oliveras, Manuel Grosselet


Treasure of the Sierra Madre

One of North America's most endangered birds, the Sierra Madre Sparrow clings to existence in isolated remnants of high-elevation native grasslands near Mexico City and in Durango. Because these rare habitats are on community-owned lands outside of national protected areas, conservation is only possible through a voluntary coalition of community leaders, university and government scientists, and international conservation organizations. They collectively support sustainable agriculture, habitat protection, and fire management.

Images: (Top-bottom) Native bunchgrass habitat required by Sierra Madre Sparrow; Don Julio Castro, a resident of Ejido Ojo de Agua El Cazador and part of a working group formed by the community, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, UNAM, and CONABIO for the conservation of the species; Sierra Madre Sparrow



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