Partners in Flight

 One of the things I like about living in Missouri is that I can see many different kinds of birds throughout the year. Spring brings the shorebirds, followed by warblers and tanagers in the summer. Juncos and eagles arrive in winter. Together, they offer a seemingly endless flight of viewing opportunities. I often marvel at these feathered gifts of nature and know our world would be much less interesting without them.

In the early 1990s, studies began to show that many of the birds that we now take for granted had been declining due to widespread habitat loss and degradation. To counter this trend, a group of concerned biologists formed Partners in Flight (PIF), a voluntary conservation organization that works to protect declining species of birds before their numbers fall so low that they face extinction.

In a nutshell, PIF seeks to keep common birds common and off the Endangered Species List Participants include government, academic and industry professionals whose combined efforts expand "on-the-ground" bird conservation.

Across the country, Partners in Flight is developing scientific bird conservation plans for physiographic areas, or "eco-regions." Within this framework, a Missouri working group has helped develop plans for each of the five eco-regions that comprise our state.

About 700 species of birds breed in North America, but not all are in trouble. To determine which ones require the most urgent attention, Partners in Flight considers a combination of seven factors. They are as follows:

  • Relative Abundance - Species with many individuals are less vulnerable than those with fewer individuals.
  • Breeding Distribution - Species that breed over a wide geographic range are less vulnerable than those with limited ranges.
  • Non-breeding Distribution - Species whose wintering and migration habitats cover a wide geographic range are less vulnerable than those with limited ranges.
  • Threats Non-Breeding assesses threats to a species and its habitat during migration and on wintering grounds.
  • Threats Breeding assesses threats to the species and its habitat on breeding grounds.
  • Area Importance indicates the importance of an area to the general range of a species. For example, more than 15 percent of the world’s summer tanagers, and more than 30 percent of the world’s whip-poor-wills, breed in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Severe declines in such large populations would have dire consequence to the global population of those species.
  • Population Trend evaluates whether a species is increasing, declining or stable. For most species, this score is based on 30 years of