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California Bird Species of Special Concern

 

Implementing the Bird Species of Special Concern

To prevent further declines of native birds, California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) initiated a process to set conservation and research priorities by developing its first annotated list of California Bird Species of Special Concern in 1978, which subjectively described declining or vulnerable species. Subsequent irregular revisions of the list lacked supporting material and were completed without a well-defined process. Thus, a thorough revision to the initial list was needed to identify currently at-risk taxa that warrant proactive conservation and research measures to ensure their population health in California.

Working with CDFG, Point Blue Conservation Science, in collaboration with a Technical Advisory Committee, developed an objective system to rank California's at-risk birds. This system and associated results, species-specific accounts, and recommendations were published in 2008 as a monograph California Bird Species of Special Concern: A Ranked Assessment of Species, Subspecies, and Distinct Populations of Birds of Immediate Conservation Concern in California.

The primary goal of the California Bird Species of Special Concern publication (BSSC) was to prevent further population declines of native birds in California. To be effective, it is necessary to implement the recommendations made in the BSSC. The work presented here aims to specifically fulfill some of the highest priority recommendations and hence facilitate conservation of California's at-risk birds.

A primary benefit of the objective ranking system used in the BSSC is that it allows scores to be updated as new data become available. However, this was impeded by the lack of a system to accept new data and recommendations for specific updates. We have provided a way to track new information (e.g., new data available, new report or publication) and to document criteria scores and any changes made to them. Users can suggest score changes and/or nominate and score new taxa. The database will enable Fish and Game to update more easily the species of concern list.

Incorporating Climate Change

While the BSSC acknowledged the importance of the long-term effects of climate change, it focused on short- to medium-term threats to birds. Hence, the recommendation was made to extend the ranking system to include the impacts of climate change on California's native birds. Here we provide the resources to develop a climate change vulnerability assessment of California's at-risk birds - a summary of climate change information for California and the criteria and associated scores for over 300 taxa. We will provide a list of species that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change as soon as we receive peer-reviews stay tuned. Such a list will serve as an early warning system to guide managers in adopting a longer-term approach to conservation.

Fostering Conservation

Management and conservation decisions should be made based on the best available information. The BSSC recommended developing and disseminating materials to inform biologists, land managers, and decision makers of the need to protect at-risk birds and of the best methods to do so. Here we have provided a wealth of data and information via map-based avian data summaries and predicted avian, vegetation,and climatic responses to climate change. Additionally, the summary of climate change information for California and the resources page also provide conservation information.

These easily accessible materials will aid the CDFG staff and other stakeholders during environmental reviews, conservation planning, and preparation of management plans, and during inventories, surveys, and monitoring conducted by the Department or its cooperators, and in the development of Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans.