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North American birds on the decline

Nearly a third of native bird species - even common ones - are seeing 
striking losses, says a survey.

By Mark Clayton  
| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
December 02, 2004 edition -

Nearly two centuries ago, vast herds of buffalo were almost wiped off 
the face of America's great plains by settlers. Today it's the prairie 
chicken that's getting plucked.

Once plentiful like the buffalo, the prairie chicken was dubbed the 
"fool's hen" because it was so easy to shoot. Even so, the delectable 
but hardy species survived. As recently as the 1980s, healthy numbers 
could be found "booming" their songs across the plains.

But a new survey shows that the greater prairie chicken species is in 
trouble. Since 1966, its population has fallen 78 percent. Fewer than 
700,000 individual birds remain. It's a fate shared by many species - 
from the cerulean warbler to the chimney swift to the northern bobwhite.

In a striking trend that spans North America's key ecosystem regions - 
grassland, shrubland, forest, wetland, and urban - almost a third of 654 
bird species native to North America are in "statistically significant 
decline," according to a first-ever "State of the Birds" report unveiled 
last month by the Audubon Society...
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