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By Dr. Silke Nebel, Vice-President, Conservation and Science, Birds Canada

Aerial insectivores – birds that catch insects on the wing – have declined by an estimated 59% since the 1970s in Canada and by about 32% across North America. This is the most severe decline of any group of birds, and translates into the loss of more than 160 million individual birds across Canada and the United States. In a guest editorial to Avian Ecology and Conservation, my coauthors and I outline a five-step roadmap to the recovery of this group of birds, which is “falling between the cracks” of the policy framework that should protect their survival in Canada. In fact, nine of the 31 species of flycatchers, nightjars, swallows, and swifts are now listed in Canada under the federal Species at Risk Act.

Suggested steps in the roadmap to their recovery include a range of “no-regrets” actions that, regardless of their effects on aerial insectivore populations, are likely to have positive benefits for biodiversity. For example: increasing public awareness of the role of insects in ecosystems, and of aerial insectivores, who rely on them, as indicators of environmental health; or supporting incentives that encourage more ecologically-friendly agricultural practices while reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Many of the recommended actions would improve environmental quality for all biodiversity. They would also reduce socioeconomic risks to industry and Canadians, create more resilient and sustainable ecosystems within working landscapes, and contribute to meeting Canada’s national biodiversity goals.

A key challenge in implementing this roadmap is the development and use of practical solutions that will benefit people and the environment. The response by Canadians to the COVID-19 pandemic amply demonstrates that rapid changes are possible when we work together to surmount challenges.

You can learn more by reading our full editorial:

Nebel, S., J. Casey, M.-A. Cyr, K. J. Kardynal, E. A. Krebs, E. F. Purves, M. Bélisle, R. M. Brigham, E. C. Knight, C. Morrissey, and R. G. Clark. 2020. Falling through the policy cracks: implementing a roadmap to conserve aerial insectivores in North America. Avian Conservation and Ecology 15(1):23.