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Education, Monitoring Key Steps in Protecting MN Birds

Audubon Minnesota wants more people to monitor bird species like the loon as they try to protect them from the possibility of extinction. (National Park Service)
Audubon Minnesota wants more people to monitor bird species like the loon as they try to protect them from the possibility of extinction. (National Park Service)
October 21, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The group responsible for annual bird counts in Minnesota hopes more volunteers will take part and fan out across the state this December. This year's survey comes on the heels of a new report predicting the effects of climate change will make it hard for certain birds to survive.

In 2018, the statewide bird census drew nearly 1,900 participants. Rob Schultz is the executive director of Audubon Minnesota. He said this year, they want to far exceed that number, because they feel they're racing against the clock to save some bird species.

"For all of us that work in these circles with birds, we are keenly concerned about these issues, and there will be more monitoring,” Schultz said. “You know, everyone is doubling down their work."

He said attracting more volunteers will help them get a more accurate read of how many species are threatened. An October report by the National Audubon Society said two-thirds of America's birds potentially face extinction from climate change. The list includes the loon, which is the Minnesota state bird.

Bird protection advocates say they'll also step up education efforts so that more people can get the attention of policymakers about the effects of carbon emissions and the benefits of clean energy. Schultz said birds could make a difference in the overall climate change conversation.

"With birds, they're a sentinel species. They're an indicator of problems within an environment that we all need to be concerned about,” he said.

The National Audubon Society report used data from nearly 80 government and academic institutions. It followed another report, released in September, that said North America has lost about 3 billion birds since 1970.

Schultz said that report, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, provided a glimpse at the damage already done to bird habitats.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN