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State Bird Among Species Disappearing from Kansas

A Western Meadowlark in the Pawnee National Grassland in Colorado. (Image from Bob Gress, Birds In Focus)

WICHITA, Kan. (Wichita Eagle) - The U.S. is losing its bird population, to the tune of 3 billion since the 1970s, and Kansas is no different, but the answer as to which bird species Kansas is missing and why they’re leaving is more complicated. The Wichita Eagle reports some birds are changing their range due to climate change and other factors, while others are leaving the state as their habitat disappears, in search of it elsewhere. Local experts say that 11 species of birds have decreased in number or nearly disappeared altogether over the past 25 years. They suspect there may be more. “We don’t have enough measures and a long enough period of measures to accurately document it,” said Chuck Otte, the secretary of the Kansas Bird Records Committee. “We know the situation is dire. We just don’t know how dire it is...It’s me having been a birdwatcher for 60 years saying ‘there aren’t nearly as many warblers migrating through as there were 20-30 years ago.’ It’s anecdotal, not hard science.”  

Birds account for 15% of all endangered species in the U.S., the second largest animal group after fish, according to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are many reasons for bird populations decline, such as habitat loss, pesticide use, invasive species of plants and animals, feral and outdoor cats, industry practices and climate change. “The climate is warming steadily and for people who have observed birds for decades, as some of us have, the effect on bird populations is significant and obvious,” said Pete Janzen, a nonprofessional birder, and co-author of The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hot Spots. Janzen said birds are changing behaviors. Some have moved their migratory range northwards, no longer wintering in Kansas. And then some southern species have found Kansas as a new home.

Declining species

While researchers do not have a comprehensive list of affected species in Kansas, they have found that grassland birds are facing the sharpest decline in population. This includes the Kansas state bird, the Western Meadowlark, as well as the Eastern Meadowlark.  

Among the species that are disappearing:

Prairie Chickens
Henslow’s Sparrow
Northern Bobwhite
Black-billed Magpies
Eastern Whip-poor-wills
Black-capped chickadee  

In October, 2019, KPR reported: Where Are All the Birds? Ranch Hand Wonders Why So Many Have Simply Vanished from Chase County  

Meanwhile, the Wichita Eagle reports: These 24 Bird Species are Becoming More Common in Kansas    

New! The Wichita Eagle: We Don’t Know How Many Bird Species We’ve Lost. Here’s How You Can Help.


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