New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

Conservation Last Updated 2/16/18

















USFWS Rejects Petition to List Bicknell's Thrush
under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
      Fall 2017

Bicknell's Thrush, photo by Joan Collins
Bicknell's Thrush
photo by Joan Collins

"In fall 2017, the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that Bicknell's Thrush does not qualify for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). This species, which breeds on the higher peaks of the Adirondacks and Catskills in New York, is facing habitat loss at both ends of its migratory journey between the northeastern US and adjacent Canada, and wintering areas on the island of Hispaniola."


"The USFWS determination on Bicknell's Thrush was part of a larger action that rejected 25 plant and animal species for ESA listing. Many of these were—like Bicknell's Thrush—facing significant threats from climate change."


"Stuart Pimm, a scientist at Duke University who specializes in endangered species and biological diversity said, “It’s spectacular cowardice on the part of the Fish and Wildlife Service, who don’t have the courage to do what they are charged with doing, which is to evaluate the scientific evidence, and not kowtow to undue political pressure.”

Read the complete article by Andy Mason, published in the January 2018 issue of NYSOA's newsletter, New York Birders

NYSOA Supports Preservation of Plum Island         June 2017

Roseate Tern, photo by Joe Hernandez
Roseate Tern
photo by Joe Hernandez

NYSOA signed on to a letter to federal legislative committee leaders in support of a bill that would remove the requirement that Plum Island off the East End of Long Island be sold, allowing this important bird habitat to remain public land. The letter was written by John L. Turner, spokesperson for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition.


"Two hundred and nineteen bird species have been documented
on Plum Island, including the federally endangered roseate tern and federally threatened piping plover. Eighteen rare plant species grow here too; for a few Plum Island is the only site in New York where they grow. Given these collective features we believe the island should not be sold but kept in the public domain. Halting the sale would give decision-makers the opportunity to develop appropriate long-term strategies to safeguard the resources of Plum Island for the benefit of the public and future generations."

Read the full letter of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC)

North Face Endurance Challenge at Doodletown July 2017

Hooded Warbler, photo by Eamon Freiburger
Hooded Warbler
by Eamon Freiburger

Each year, on a Saturday and Sunday in the middle of May (coinciding in 2017 with eBird's Global Big Day weekend), The North Face (as in outdoor clothing and gear) conducts a series of footraces. The race course includes Doodletown Road in Bear Mountain State Park, on the trail where countless birders go in search of Hooded and Cerulean Warblers, among many other bird species. This influx of noise and human activity associated with the races is detrimental not only to birding but to the birds themselves.


"The National Audubon Society has identified Doodletown and Iona Island as an Important Bird Area. IBA designation is an effort to identify and conserve areas that are vital to birds and other biodiversity. In this regard, Doodletown is in company with such critical habitat as Jamaica Bay and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuges, the Adirondack peaks, and Long Island's Great South Bay. The area is listed as a priority site in the state's Open Space Conservation Plan and has been designated as a state Bird Conservation Area."


"There has been considerable discussion among birders and within bird clubs over the loss of Doodletown during the endurance race. This is viewed as an issue of basic fairness, with one activity dominating a public area to the detriment of its natural resources at a time when many others wish to visit and engage in low-impact activity. We believe that changing the date of the race to earlier in the spring would be a relatively simple solution to this situation, and significantly reduce impacts to the park."

Read the full letter from Andy Mason, NYSOA Conservation Chair, to James F. Hall, Executive Director of the Palisates Interstate Park Commission.

NYSOA Fights for Protection of the Hudson River from Dangerous Oil BargesJune 2017

Hudson River, photo by Carena Pooth
Hudson River

During the summer of 2016, the Coast Guard put forth a proposal to add 10 anchorages, totaling more than 2400 acres, on the Hudson River between Yonkers and Kingston. These areas would essentially be parking lots for up to 43 barges holding fracked crude oil. NYSOA, like many organizations and individuals, was very concerned about the risk of environmental disaster inherent in such a plan, and submitted its concerns during the designated comment period in December 2016.


In 2017, the overwhelming public reaction to the Coast Guard's plan triggered legislative action (A.6825A) on the state level aimed at strengthening New York's "ability to control its own destiny on this historic and environmentally critical waterway" (words from NYSOA's letter to the NY State Assembly Speaker). As of July 20, 2017, the legislation has been passed but hs not yet been signed by the governor. The Coast Guard suspended its proposal in June. At that time, however, it was announced that the Coast Guard will conduct a "Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment" to guide next steps.

- Read the June 2017 letter sent to the NYS Assembly Speaker by Andy Mason, NYSOA Conservation Chair
- Read NYSOA's December 2016 response to the Coast Guard proposal

Waterfowl — for Hunters Only?January 2017   
POSTED 4/8/17
American Black Ducks, photo by Joan Collins
American Black Ducks

"I couldn't help but be struck by the disconnect of birders - NYSOA specifically - carrying out the legwork of counting waterfowl on a cold winter weekend, but not being included in the process of determining hunting rules that will affect waterfowl numbers for the next year."

"New York State has a long-standing legal standard that wildlife belongs to all the people of the state. DEC seems to forget this principle in many of its determinations and actions. It has carried out large-scale lethal management of cormorants to benefit a small number of fishing charter owners, and is now engaged in major ecological manipulation of state lands to increase production of grouse and other game birds."

- Read the full article by Andy Mason, NYSOA Conservation Committee Chair


Lead Poisoning a Continuing Threat to EaglesJune 2016   
Bald Eagle, photo by Carena Pooth
Bald Eagle

"The danger and evidence of lead poisoning in eagles and other scavenging birds continues in NY State, with little change in the state's attitude towards the problem."

"Lead causes neurological and organ damage in birds.  In the end stages of lead poisoning, birds experience lethargy and convulsions.  Lead from wounded carcasses and entrails of deer shot with lead bullets has been documented as the principal factor in the near-extinction of California Condors."

"What you can do—Contact new DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos (NYS DEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233, or email at and let him know of your concerns over the ongoing problem of lead poisoning of eagles and other scavenging birds. Ask that the agency do more to encourage hunters to switch to non-toxic bullets, including pilot programs to require its use on state Wildlife Management Units."
- Read the full article by Andy Mason, NYSOA Conservation Committee Chair
- Watch Video (Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society)

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