S.C. home to dozens of imperiled bird species

Audubon, American Bird Conservancy release watch lists

CHESTER -- Two bird groups Wednesday released a Watch List of 178 imperiled species in the continental United States, including dozens that spend at least part of their year in South Carolina.

The goal is to help these less-recognized species follow the path of the bald eagle, the California condor and the whooping crane, all of which have garnered publicity and are on the rebound.

People are less likely to recognize the piping plover or the wood thrush, two birds on the Watch List compiled by Audubon and the American Bird Conservancy.

"For Watch List birds, the clock is ticking," said Audubon president John Flicker. "Many will not survive unless we act to save them."

The groups analyzed population sizes, trends, distribution and range to come up with the Watch List. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service compiles its own list of endangered and threatened species, the bird groups felt the need to come up with their own.

"Unfortunately, there's been an almost halt of birds added to the endangered species list during the current administration," said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for Audubon.

Fifty-nine species made the Audubon/American Bird Conservancy red list, denoting the highest priority. Many aren't listed as endangered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fifteen on the red list can be found in South Carolina, including the piping plover, least tern, prothonotary warbler, Bachman's sparrow and wood thrush.

As with most birds on the list, the major threats to the South Carolina birds are loss of habitat and disturbance by people or pets. Audubon offered some ways people can help:

• Keep dogs on leashes when walking on beaches. Curious dogs often disturb piping plover and least tern nests.

• Volunteer to protect a rooftop nesting colony of least terns. With their natural dune nesting areas disappearing, least terns increasingly are building nests on flat coastal roofs, which are fraught with peril for young birds. Audubon is setting up a volunteer roof nest watch program.

• Keep cats indoors. Domestic cats are responsible for the deaths of millions of songbirds like wood thrush and prothonotary warblers each year.

• Support efforts to protect wetlands and restore longleaf pine forests. The Bachman's warbler and the red-cockaded woodpecker, another red-list bird, live in longleaf pine forests, which once covered 90 million acres in the Southeast but now cover 3 million acres.