James A. Kushlan
Waterbirds 35 (4), 608-625, (1 December 2012) https://doi.org/10.1675/063.035.0410
KEYWORDS: egrets, herons, monitoring, North American Waterbird Conservation Plan, pelicans, seabirds, wading birds, Waterbird Conservation for the Americas
The commentary follows the story of colonial waterbird conservation in the United States over the past 150 years. Colonial waterbirds, especially egrets and pelicans, played an important role in the founding of the American bird conservation movement. At the beginning of the 20th Century, bird conservation activity self-organized, inspired creation of refuges for colonial waterbirds, protected colonies with wardens, and secured passage of conservation laws. Thereafter Federal and state governments slowly grew in their authorities and commitment to bird conservation. Successes achieved, colonial waterbirds fell from priority during the remainder of the first half of the 20th Century, although legislative, administrative and academic progress was made of considerable subsequent value. In the 1960s and 1970s, colonial waterbirds resumed a significant role, first in contaminant studies and then in population inventories. This engagement encouraged maturation of a colonial waterbird research and conservation agenda in the United States, including founding of the Waterbird Society, which facilitated a blossoming of colonial waterbird research in the succeeding decades. In the national conservation planning initiatives of the 1990s, colonial waterbirds were represented by the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan, later Waterbird Conservation for the Americas. Waterbirds are now well integrated in bird conservation planning and action at multiple scales in the United States. Conservation biology, assessment, protection and site management have progressed well, while population estimation, monitoring and data archiving have not. Appropriate direction seems clear, involving regional coordination of the actions of local stakeholders.