Dear Audubon Member,

Photo by Monte Costa

Buff-breasted sandpipers are truly amazing travelers. Every year they migrate to and from southern South America to the North American Arctic. They are shorebirds, but like a few other shorebirds, they find most of their food in grasslands, so birdwatchers refer to them and other grass-loving shorebirds as “grass pipers.” And that's just what's getting them in trouble, along with most other birds that need grasslands to survive. Native grasslands are rapidly disappearing across most of North and South America. Audubon's annual “State of the Birds” report revealed that 70 percent of grassland birds are in significant decline.

Audubon has made grassland protection a top priority in the United States. Unfortunately, that isn't enough. Unless we protect every critical link in a species' migratory chain, it will continue to slide toward extinction. Establishing effective protections throughout the Western Hemisphere requires partnerships with local organizations in each country that has essential grassland habitat.

Grassland birds are not unique. We face similar global challenges with nearly all migratory birds, from songbirds to waterfowl. The cerulean warbler, for example, breeds in the eastern United States but winters in South America, on the slopes of the Andes Mountains. And the brant, which winters along both coasts of the Lower 48, breeds in Alaska and the high Arctic of Canada and Siberia. To safeguard the future for these and other species, protections must be in place at every stop along their migratory routes.

That's why bird lovers around the world formed BirdLife International, a partnership of leading organizations from each participating country that focus on the unique challenges of protecting these global travelers. Audubon is the official BirdLife partner organization in the United States.

The BirdLife strategy starts by identifying the most important bird habitat in each country. These places form a global network of critical habitats called Important Bird Areas. Think of them as rest stops on the migratory turnpike.

As BirdLife's U.S. partner, Audubon's responsibility is to identify and designate Important Bird Areas in this country. We now have IBA programs in 40 states and have identified more than 1,800 sites. We anticipate that some 3,000 sites may eventually be designated. Once this happens, the next step is to make sure these IBAs are permanently protected.

BirdLife partner organizations are doing the same in their countries. The fact is, most of the partners in our hemisphere do not have the resources they need to succeed. So when we work to protect “grass pipers” here, our strategy includes helping our BirdLife partners in other countries to protect grasslands there.

If you want to learn more about protecting migratory birds, even in your backyard, visit our website at www.audubon.org.


is to conserve and restore
natural ecosystems, focusing
on birds, other wildlife, and
their habitats for the
benefit of humanity and the
earth's biological diversity

John Flicker
National Audubon Society

© 2005 National Audubon Society

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