It’s almost been a year since the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, along with 22 other plants and animals, was officially declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Destruction of their forest habitat largely caused the decline. Birders and conservationists around the world mourned the announcement. The loss of the third largest woodpecker in the world rang through the hearts of those passionate about wildlife and sparked a fearful feeling that more animals and plants — and especially birds — would become extinct because of human activity. In Arizona, we are particularly concerned about the loss of wildlife due to our 20+ year drought, the continual decline of the Colorado River, the ever-rising temperatures, and habitat loss.
Our species are well-adapted to the heat, whether it’s pooping on their feet to keep cool (shout-out to Turkey Vultures) or hiding in saguaros. However, there’s still concern about how well Arizona animals and plants will continue to adapt to increasing temperatures and decreasing water. That harsh environment and harmful human activity have contributed to the loss and fragmentation of habitats.
One bird species in Arizona that is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a National Bird of Conservation Concern is the Burrowing Owl. I have had the chance to see a nest site with four Burrowing Owls in it only once — it was an incredible sight!
The main reason for the decline of Burrowing Owl populations here is habitat loss. As cities like Phoenix grow, the unfortunate result is the displacement of owls and the decrease in good habitats for them. However, something that many Arizonans don’t know is that land and wildlife managers are working to create artificial burrowing sites. Conservation groups and Non-Profit organizations across Arizona are working to protect Burrowing Owls and to help relocate them after displacement.
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will further protect species in Arizona like the Burrowing Owl, the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy owl, Apache Trout, and Black-footed Ferret. Read more about Recovering America's Wildlife Act here to see how you can help.
Declaring a species extinct is no easy task — even now people report sightings of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. An even more difficult task, however, is in deciding when to move on from an extinct species and begin helping those of greatest conservation need.
To read more about the other Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Arizona, visit https://www.azgfd.com/wildlife/speciesofgreatestconservneed/.