The Chicago Region’s “Declining & Imperiled Birds”,
“Watchlist 2007”, and “Birds & Climate Change”

State of the Birds Reports
Declining Birds
Birds & Climate Change

The National Audubon Society has recently published three national analyses of citizen science data that have local implications. Using data from hundreds of local birders and many more across the country, they have published the following reports. Illinois information from each study is listed in the box on the right.

Using Christmas Count and Breeding Bird Survey data, Audubon identified Common Birds in Decline that we can help now before they become threatened or endangered. Details from this study are listed below.

Nearly 60% of the 305 species found in North America in winter are on the move, shifting their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles. Audubon scientists analyzed 40 years of citizen-science Christmas Bird Count data—and their findings provide new and powerful evidence that global warming is having a serious impact on natural systems. Northward movement was detected among species of every type, including more than 70 percent of highly adaptable forest and feeder birds.

Only grassland species were an exception—with only 38 percent mirroring the northward trend. But far from being good news for species like Eastern Meadowlark and Henslow's Sparrow, this reflects the grim reality of severely-depleted grassland habitat and suggests that these species now face a double threat from the combined stresses of habitat loss and climate adaptation.

Chicago Region's Common Birds In Decline

Thirty-four species of birds that spend at least part of the year in the Chicago region have been identified by Audubon and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) as in need of conservation action to ensure their continued survival. These species have the dubious distinction of being included on WatchList 2007, the newest and most scientifically sound list of America's birds at greatest risk. Unlike those on Audubon's recent survey of Common Birds in Decline, these species are so rare that they face a more imminent threat of extinction. For some of them, ongoing conservation efforts in the Chicago Region are a model for what is needed nationally.

The continental WatchList is based on a comprehensive analysis of population size and trends, distribution, and environmental threats, informed and improved by extensive scientific review. The 59 species on its "red list" (including 7 Chicago region birds) are those of greatest concern, while the additional 119 (27 of which live in the Chicago region) merit their spots on the "yellow list" due to a combination of rarity and seriously declining numbers. Species found on either part of the WatchList demand immediate help while there is still sufficient time so that reasonable, practical efforts can save them.

Below are the birds occuring regularly in the Chicago Region and Illinois that are on the WatchList. For the complete continental WatchList and information on how to help, visit

Red & Yellow Watchlist 2007
Birds Occuring Regularly in the Chicago Region & Illinois
Grassland Nesters, Migrants Wintering Birds
Short-eared Owl Landbird Declining winter resident
Henslow's Sparrow Landbird Highest National Concern breeding bird
Le Conte's Sparrow Landbird Declining migrant
Shrubland Nesters
Willow Flycatcher Landbird Declining breeding bird
Bell's Vireo Landbird Highest National Concern breeding bird
Blue-winged Warbler Landbird Rare breeding bird
Woodland & Savanna Nesters & Migrants
Swainson's Hawk Landbird Rare breeding bird
Red-headed Woodpecker Landbird Declining year-round resident
Wood Thrush Landbird Declining breeding bird
Olive-sided Flycatcher Landbird Declining migrant
Golden-winged Warbler Landbird Highest National Concern migrant, former nester
Prairie Warbler Landbird Declining migrant, rare nester
Bay-breasted Warbler Landbird Declining migrant
Cerulean Warbler Landbird Declining *migrant, rare nester
Prothonotary Warbler Landbird Declining *migrant, rare nester
Kentucky Warbler Landbird Declining *migrant, rare nester
Canada Warbler Landbird Declining migrant
Wetland Nesters & Migrants
Yellow Rail Marshbird Highest National Concern migrant
Black Rail Marshbird Highest National Concern status uncertain
King Rail Marshbird Declining breeding bird
Whooping Crane Marshbird Highest National Concern migrant; former nester
American Golden-Plover Shorebird Declining migrant
Piping Plover Shorebird Highest National Concern migrant
Hudsonian Godwit Shorebird Rare migrant
Marbled Godwit Shorebird Declining migrant; former nester
Sanderling Shorebird Declining migrant
Semipalmated Sandpiper Shorebird Declining migrant
Western Sandpiper Shorebird Rare migrant
White-rumped Sandpiper Shorebird Declining migrant
Stilt Sandpiper Shorebird Rare migrant
Buff-breasted Sandpiper Shorebird Highest National Concern migrant
Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow Landbird Rare migrant
Rusty Blackbird Landbird Declining migrant (winters southern Illinois)
Additional Illinois birds not found in the Chicago Region
Trumpeter Swan Waterfowl Rare recently returned breeding bird
Greater Prairie-Chicken Landbird Highest National Concern year-round resident
Least Tern Waterbird Highest National Concern breeding bird
Smith's Longspur Landbird Rare migrant
*breeds more commonly in Illinois outside of the Chicago Region