Rare Bird Conservation
Conservation of Massachusetts' diverse avifauna and their habitats is an important focus of MassWildlife and the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Approximately 190 species of birds nest regularly in Massachusetts. Please view Bird List for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 2002 for a list of all the bird species that occur in Massachusetts. Currently, 29 species of birds are included on the MESA List of Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Species. Many of these are dependent on habitats that are, themselves, relatively uncommon or heavily impacted by human use, for example freshwater marshes, grasslands, coastal beaches and islands, and coastal shrublands. Please view our Rare Species Fact Sheets for species-specific status and life history information.
Effective bird conservation is accomplished through multifaceted programs that protect and enhance both populations and habitats of target species. Conservation programs are directed at Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern bird species, as well as others that are uncommon, declining, or otherwise of management concern. State and federal regulations, including the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, protect habitats and prevent human-caused mortality and disturbance of state-listed rare species. Habitat for birds and other wildlife can be protected through purchases or donations of land and through conservation restrictions. MassWildlife owns and manages over 155,000 acres of upland, wetland, riparian, and coastal habitats that support both rare and common species of birds. Some habitats may be enhanced through "hands-on" management, for example cutting or controlled burning of vegetation, manipulation of water levels in wetlands, or restrictions on off-road vehicle use. Well-designed field surveys that monitor trends in bird populations and effects of management are essential, and research and public education are also important components of effective bird conservation.
Massachusetts supports populations and habitats of coastal waterbirds that are of global and continental significance, including nearly 15% of the world's Piping Plovers, 50% of the U.S. population of Roseate Terns, and important migration habitat for arctic-nesting shorebirds. Read our coastal waterbirds section for more information on conservation programs for Piping Plovers, American Oystercatchers and colony-nesting species such as terns, gull, cormorants, herons, and egrets.
Six species of marsh birds are listed as "Endangered", "Threatened", or "Special Concern" species in Massachusetts. We welcome well-documented breeding-season records for these species, submitted on standard rare marsh bird data forms.
Blodget, B.G. 2002. Bird List for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 2002. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough.
Forbush, E.H. 1925-1929. Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States. Vols. I-III. Massachusetts Dept. of Agriculture, Boston.
Poole, A. (ed.). The Birds of North America. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. The Birds of North America Online Database.
Petersen, W.R. and W. R. Meservey (eds.). 2003. Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, Mass.
Veit, R.R. and W.R. Petersen. 1993. Birds of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, Mass.