Saving Our Shared Birds

Road to Recovery

…is an independently funded enterprise focused on the recovery of the most rapidly declining birds in the United States and Canada. Our approach is a purposeful integration of biological and social science targeted at identifying and addressing specific causes of declines throughout the annual cycle. Starting with a set of Tipping Point species, R2R supports species-focused teams and projects. We work collectively with scientists, conservation practitioners, and local communities to create sustainable solutions for recovering bird populations.

The Road to Recovery:

Inspiring actionable and co-produced science for birds

A team of scientists from the U.S. and Canada published a 2019 landmark publication in Science documenting the loss over five decades of ~ 3 billion birds spanning 303 declining species—almost one third of the breeding avifauna in the United States and Canada. These declines serve as an alarm call to conservation professionals, as birds are indicator species that signal the health and quality of ecosystems. If we can reverse bird declines, we can indirectly improve habitat quality for other organisms. Broad general threats to birds have been well-documented (e.g., habitat loss, anthropogenic causes of mortality, invasive species), but we need to identify species-specific causes and conservation actions to adequately address declines. It is urgent that we understand how, where, and when birds are limited in their annual life cycles to move forward along a path leading to sustained population stabilization and recovery.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology - graphic representing 2.9 billion birds gone since 1970.
Image from Rosenberg et al. 2019

The eye-opening 2019 Science paper motivated key leaders in the bird conservation community to reimagine the focus and intensity of their efforts. The Road to Recovery Initiative (R2R) is a response to that call for action. Established in 2020, R2R is developing a process for reversing bird declines that incorporates biological and social science into a systematic species-by-species approach which seeks to:

  1. Understand population linkages and limiting factors causing bird declines.
  2. Create targeted conservation actions for Tipping Point Species.
  3. Integrate social science, environmental and social justice, and limiting factors from biological science into a plan for co-produced implementation of conservation.

Collaborations with diverse bird conservation coalitions and initiatives are critical to our success.

The Road to Recovery process is built on a commitment to science co-production among social and biological scientists, conservation decision-makers, impacted communities, and rightsholders. By working together throughout the process of identifying limiting factors, designing strategies to address causes of decline, implementing conservation actions, and monitoring success, the R2R community seeks to eliminate the research-to-implementation gap. Road to Recovery collaborates with and complements the efforts of other important bird conservation initiatives—including but not limited to Partners in Flight (PIF), North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI), Central Grasslands Roadmap, Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, Waterbird Conservation for the Americas, and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan to bring about recovery of bird species populations. We also seek to expand beyond traditional bird conservation partnerships to include empowered partners such as community organizations, indigenous communities, and advocacy groups focused on social or environmental justice efforts.

Instituting a Strategic Process to Restore Bird Populations

Road to Recovery will continue to facilitate interactive workshops, conferences, and informal engagement sessions to explore key aspects of bird conservation and the recovery process in depth. Through these forums and through in-the-field opportunities to practice co-production, R2R’s approach and strategies will continue to evolve.

photo by Tim Romano

Prior Workshops

Workshop 1 · 7-8 JULY 2020

This workshop convened 122 virtual attendees representing NGOs, state agencies, U.S. joint ventures, and academic institutions from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to garner expert wisdom on the best approaches available for identifying limiting factors.

Workshop 2 · 1-3 December 2020

This workshop convened over 300 virtual attendees to build a vision for new science on priority species that focuses on identifying linked populations, understanding limiting factors, and pinpointing specific causes of decline.

Workshop 3 · 27-29 July 2021

This workshop brought together a total of 511 virtual participants to explore how social science, communications, and co-production can be incorporated into species recovery so as to eliminate the gap between research and conservation action. We developed a process for advancing species toward sustainable population recovery, beginning with Tipping Point Species.

Mountain Plover on a nest

Mountain Plover photo by Michael Wunder

The Road to Recovery

Guidance Document

In 2019 Rosenberg et. al. documented the loss of nearly 3 billion birds from the U.S./ Canada avifauna. Road to Recovery’s response and vision is to use targeted and actionable science to recover declining bird populations before they become extinct. We take a species-specific approach to mitigate threats and ensure sustained recovery of the most at-risk species. Bird conservation is inextricably linked to human activities and well-being via shared resource concerns, and we therefore embrace fully incorporating human dimensions in the recovery process. We challenge ourselves to continue to learn to effectively integrate the social sciences, co-production, communications, community engagement, and social justice in each step of the recovery process.

We Need Your Support!

Donate today and help us in the recovery of the U.S. and Canada’s rapidly declining species. 

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