Bird Conservation Plan Chapter 1

Chapter 1     Introduction

1.1   Partners in Flight and New Mexico Partners in Flight

Increasing evidence of declines in numerous local and global bird populations has led to concern over the future of many species. Although the reasons for these declines are varied and complex, most are thought to be habitat related. Degradation, alteration, fragmentation, and loss of breeding, wintering, and migratory stopover habitat now jeopardize the long-term survival of many species. In some cases, these threats are compounded by other factors, including pollution and pesticide poisoning, biological interactions (e.g., predation and brood parasitism), and future threats posed by global climate change. Concern over these threats to both resident and migratory bird species has grown over the past few decades. By the 1990’s, scientists, resource managers, and concerned citizens agreed that a broad-scale conservation initiative for neotropical migratory birds was needed. This initiative was later expanded to include all non-game landbirds (to be developed in coordination with other efforts to conserve shorebirds, waterbirds, and waterfowl).

In 1990, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation brought together representatives from federal, state, and local government agencies, non-profit foundations and conservation organizations, private industry, and the academic community to form a broad new bird conservation partnership, appropriately named Partners in Flight (PIF). PIF was conceived as a voluntary coalition of interested parties and entities dedicated to halting or reversing downward trends in bird populations. Since its inception, PIF has helped direct resources to the conservation of non-game landbirds by facilitating and coordinating cooperative efforts in conservation planning, biological research and monitoring, habitat management and restoration, outreach and education, and securing international cooperation.

The overall goals of PIF are expressed in three related concepts (Rich et al. 2004):

  • Helping species at risk. A primary goal of PIF is to conserve species showing warning signs today, before they become imperiled and subject to federal listing and costly management recovery efforts.
  • Keeping common birds common. Safeguarding the integrity and diversity of North America’s unique ecosystems requires that all native species be maintained in healthy numbers throughout their natural ranges.
  • Voluntary partnerships for birds, habitats, and people. Successful conservation requires the building of synergistic relationships among public agencies, private organizations and committed individuals throughout the Americas, so that energy and resources are combined, coordinated, and increased.

As a state chapter of this larger partnership, New Mexico Partners in Flight (NMPIF) was established in 1995 to promote and enhance conservation and management efforts for New Mexico birds and the habitats upon which they depend. Key participants in NMPIF include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Park Service (NPS), the Department of Defense (DOD), the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), the New Mexico State Land Office (NMSLO), the New Mexico Natural Heritage Program (NMNHP), the New Mexico Audubon Society and its chapters, The Nature Conservancy, Hawks Aloft, Inc., and various university and independent researchers and other dedicated individuals.

NMPIF seeks to apply the guiding principles of PIF at the state level, to address both national and state conservation needs. Seven guiding principles express the conservation philosophy and priorities of NMPIF:

  • Conservation efforts should be directed towards species while they are still relatively common, thereby avoiding the costs and risks associated with species endangerment;
  • The most effective conservation efforts are habitat-based, providing benefits for multiple bird species, as well as other components of biological diversity;
  • Species and habitat conservation efforts can succeed only if they are based on sound science;
  • Conservation of migratory species can succeed only through a comprehensive approach that addresses threats on breeding grounds, non-breeding areas, and the migratory pathways that connect them;
  • Effective and practical conservation must stress the maintenance of both suitable natural conditions and compatible economic uses of natural resources;
  • Conservation goals can be best achieved through broad partnerships, in which federal, state and local agencies, private conservation groups, academic researchers, industry representatives and others can work together for species and habitat protection;
  • A necessary component of any conservation initiative is an informed, proactive constituency of people who are concerned about bird conservation and are willing to take voluntary action to protect birds and habitats. Such constituencies must include private landowners and other local land users.

1.2   Bird Conservation Planning

Since its inception, a major focus of PIF activities has been the production and implementation of geographically-based Bird Conservation Plans (BCPs). These documents serve to summarize existing biological and conservation-related knowledge for a planning region, and provide a framework by which the general principles stated above can be translated into effective, on-the-ground strategies for habitat and species protection. BCPs are written to serve specific regions and vary in accordance with local needs, but all follow the same general approach to conservation planning. The PIF  “The Flight Plan” describes the general strategy for developing, writing, coordinating, and implementing BCPs at state, regional, and national levels. The basic steps include:

  1. Identification and ranking of those species and habitats most in need of protection;
  2. Description of current habitat conditions and determination of management priorities, including specific population and habitat conservation objectives;
  3. Development of best management practices that will enable conservation objectives to be met for each priority habitat; and
  4. On-the-ground implementation by a variety of means, including the establishment of conservation partnerships, development of traditional and innovative funding mechanisms, scientific research and monitoring, education and outreach, and policy development.

BCPs have now been written for about 60 geographic units nationwide, including physiographic areas, Bird Conservation Regions, and twelve different western states. Each BCP is a working, adaptive document that is expected to undergo repeated iterations as more information becomes available, approaches to conservation are refined, and as conditions warrant. This document, now in revised Version 2 form, is but one example.

1.2.1   The New Mexico Bird Conservation Plan

This Bird Conservation Plan was initially developed by NMPIF with input from experts and interested individuals throughout the state. In the mid-1990’s, meetings were held to solicit core information on the status and trends of New Mexico birds. Many people with knowledge and experience of different New Mexico regions and habitat types contributed to this process. At roughly the same time, a technical committee within NMPIF took on the task of carrying out species assessment and priority species designation for New Mexico birds, according to PIF guidelines. All of this information, together with material from the scientific literature, was used to draft Version 1 of the New Mexico BCP. Following further expert review, an initial draft of this document was published in 1999. Various small changes continued to be made to the document in the years following.

In 2003, NMPIF decided to undertake a more substantive revision of the state BCP. The main goals of the revision process were:

  • To carry out a new statewide species assessment using updated information from the Breeding Bird Survey and from the new PIF North American Landbird Conservation Plan (Rich et al. 2004). This new assessment was also intended to more closely parallel (in the criterion used for scoring vulnerability) the new system of species assessment adopted by PIF nationally for its continental plan.
  • To create updated lists of priority species for conservation action or monitoring in New Mexico, distinguishing between species of national and state biodiversity concern.
  • To create more substantive species accounts for all priority species.
  • To carry out prioritization of habitats, as well as species, and provide additional management recommendations and biological objectives for priority habitats.
  • To introduce a regional approach to conservation planning based on the state’s four Bird Conservation Regions.

Various other small changes, and some significant structural reorganization of the New Mexico BCP Version 1 contents, have also been made. The result of this process is the present Version 2. Because this is a dynamic document, the process of updating and revising will be ongoing. Any additional information that will add value to this BCP, and contribute to bird conservation in New Mexico, is always welcome.

1.2.2   The PIF North American Landbird Conservation Plan

As noted above, this revised BCP incorporates information contained in the PIF North American Landbird Conservation Plan (Appendix A, Rich et al. 2004, also referred to as the “PIF Continental Plan”). The purpose of that document, created over a number of years by PIF partners from the USA, Canada, and Mexico, is to provide a continental perspective on North American landbird conservation. It summarizes the conservation status of 448 native landbird species, identifying those most in need of attention at continental and regional scales. It also emphasizes the need for stewardship of biome-restricted species that may not otherwise be in need of immediate conservation attention. These national and regional priorities are summarized in the PIF Watch List and stewardship species lists.

A significant feature of the PIF Continental Plan is that it provides the first systematic estimates of total population size for North American landbird species. It also assigns priority and stewardship species to categories of conservation action and monitoring need, and sets numerical population objectives on a continental scale.

The PIF Continental Plan is intended to inform and guide more detailed planning and implementation efforts at local and regional scales. In revising our state BCP, NMPIF has followed the general guidelines and philosophy expressed by the authors of the Continental Plan in the statement below:

Regional planners are naturally focused on regional objectives, but the effectiveness of landbird conservation action can be increased by linking objectives for Bird Conservation Regions [or states] to those identified here at the continental scale. For example, although this Plan represents a revised assessment of conservation vulnerability for all species of landbirds, many Species of Continental Importance are likely to have been identified through past assessments in regional plans. If not, planners should consider whether revisions to existing plans could better address the needs of these species in their area.  We generally suggest that Watch List Species be afforded attention wherever they occur. We suggest that action for Stewardship Species be carefully considered in areas where these species are most common, particularly where actions taken on behalf of Watch List Species are likely to leave Stewardship Species and habitats they represent lacking in attention. Additionally, where an individual Stewardship Species has a high regional population decline, specific action may be warranted, and local objectives might appropriately be to substantially increase that Stewardship Species’ population. (Rich et al. 2004).

1.2.3   Other National Bird Plans

All PIF BCPs are intended to complement the existing national conservation plans for non-landbird species: the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the National Shorebird Conservation Plan, and the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan.

The New Mexico BCP differs from some of the other BCPs in explicitly adopting an all-bird focus. Included here is information not only on landbirds, but on wading birds, shorebirds, and waterfowl. These species have been included in the New Mexico species assessment and priority lists, based in part on information provided by the various national plans.

1.3   How to Use This Plan – A Quick Guide

This plan is specifically intended to serve the needs of people participating or interested in bird and habitat conservation in New Mexico: agency scientists, managers, policy makers, conservation advocates, academic and independent researchers, educators, government representatives, landowners and resource stakeholders, and concerned citizens. NMPIF particularly hopes that this plan will be consulted and cited by the authors of land use planning and resource management documents, such as USFS Forest Management Plans and BLM Resource Management Plans. Other examples of potential use include state agency, tribal, and Natural Resources Conservation Service management plans. It is through such documents that the management recommendations contained herein for “keeping common birds common” can be translated into management policy.

Different audiences may have specific questions or needs, which are addressed in different chapters of this BCP. For general orientation, the following brief overview of chapter contents may be useful.

Chapter One: Introduction. The introduction provides a brief history of PIF, a statement of PIF goals, and an overview of the bird conservation planning process. This chapter also describes NMPIF and the history of the New Mexico BCP in its current revised form.

Chapter Two: The Planning Unit. Chapter Two includes a brief historical and ecological overview of New Mexico, and lists some key contributions to present knowledge of the state’s avifauna. This chapter also introduces and describes the state’s four Bird Conservation Regions, and the 20 NMPIF-designated habitat types, which are the foundation for NMPIF’s approach to bird conservation in New Mexico.

Chapter Three: Avifaunal and Habitat Analysis. This chapter presents lists of NMPIF priority species for New Mexico. Separate lists are provided for species of general conservation concern, and species considered important to state biodiversity. Also included here are explanations of the species assessment and prioritization scheme adopted by NMPIF, and some analyses of how priority bird species are distributed across habitat types and regions. This chapter also introduces priority habitats for the state, as designated by NMPIF. The chapter concludes with a short section describing the ongoing process of setting biological objectives for species and habitats, and lists NMPIF’s broad, statewide conservation goals for New Mexico.

Chapter Four: Species Accounts. Species accounts constitute the heart of most Bird Conservation Plans. This chapter provides detailed information on the status and needs of all of New Mexico’s priority bird species. Management recommendations and biological objectives are presented for all priority species.


Appendix A. Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan

Appendix B. Partners in Flight Handbook on Species Assessment

Appendix C. Complete species assessment scores for New Mexico birds


Link to Chapter Two;

Chapter 2     The Planning Unit