The Blue List

In 1971, the National Audubon Society's ornithological field journal, American Birds, began publishing a list, the Blue List, to provide early warning of those North American species undergoing population or range reductions. The Blue List was designed to identify patterns of impending or ongoing serious losses in regional bird populations, not to duplicate the function of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Threatened and Endangered Species List. Many species on the Blue List remain locally common, but appear to be undergoing noncyclic declines. In contrast, by the time a species is officially fisted as Endangered, it often is on its last legs.

Throughout the decade following its inception, American Birds solicited reports and recommendations from its readership to incorporate into an annual update of the list. Regional editors forwarded these reports and recommendations to the publication, where nominations to and deletions from the list were compiled. In 1981, American Birds published a summarizing "decade list." It included the 69 birds nominated for listing that year as well as all of the species that had previously appeared on the Blue List. Updates of the Blue List continue, and at this writing (1987), 22 species were officially Blue-Listed and another 52 merited "Special" or "Local" Concern. Blue List status is noted under the "CONSERVATION" section of the respective species treatments.

The effectiveness of the Blue List depends on the accuracy of the data supplied by regional compilers and the responsiveness of government agencies accountable for species conservation. Submission of data to the editors of the Blue List is a way for field observers to influence policies of state and federal agencies concerned with avian research and species protection. More information is available from the National Audubon Society.

SEE: Birds and the Law; Helping to Conserve Birds -- National Level; Metallic Poisons; Wintering and Conservation.

Copyright ® 1988 by Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye.