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CoastLine: Bird-Watching Gets New Interest During Pandemic Shutdown

Migratory birds have enjoyed federal protection since 1918 under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The law makes it illegal to capture, kill, trade, or otherwise transport wild birds without the express permission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  It also holds companies or corporations accountable who cause the death of migratory birds through environmental accidents such as oil spills.  But a proposed revision to the law rolls back some of these protections if entities can prove the deaths were unintentional.

According to the draft environmental impact statement, the new guidelines would reduce regulatory burdens and uncertainty on the public with regards to complying with bird take prohibitions.  According to the National Audubon Society, two-thirds of North American bird species are already at risk of extinction from climate change.  Earlier this year, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee voted to advance the Migratory Bird Protection Act, a bill that would counter the rollbacks embedded in the rule clarification.

David Yarnold, President and CEO of Audubon, says that “despite requests from governors, state legislatures, mayors, Members of Congress, and a number of conservation organizations, to pause major changes to critical public protections during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Administration has continued to push its bird-killing policy along with other major rollbacks.”

We take a closer look at what some of these changes could mean for local birders.  And we take a lighter look at what the pandemic has meant for local birds and the people who enjoy them. 


Lindsay Addison, Coastal Biologist, Audubon North Carolina

Jill Peleuses, Owner, Wild Bird and Garden in Wilmington and Southport


Searchable native plant database:   audubon.org/native-plants

Cape Fear Audubon Society:  https://capefearaudubon.org/

Wild Bird And Garden:  http://www.wildbirdgardeninc.com/

*Editor's Note:  The text has been corrected to reflect the name of the federal law in place since 1918 -- the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  The Migratory Bird Protection Act is legislation proposed in the U.S. House in 2020 to counteract the proposed changes to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.