Why Female Birds Are Important for Conservation

Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Today is International Women's Day. To commemorate, we wanted to explore the beauty and importance of female birds -- and why overlooking them can cause negative consequence to environmental efforts. 

Male and female birds not only appear differently in many cases, they behave differently as well. In sexually dimorphic species - species where males and females have visually distinguishable traits - males are often noticed or logged more. This can be due to their brighter breeding plumages or more recognizable plumage and pattern overall. 

Female American Redstart. Photo by Shayna Hartley. 

A shocking study released in 2019 found that up to two thirds of North American migratory species (including vulnerable populations) may overwinter in different habitats based on sex. They also found that less than 1 in 10 conservation reports considered this very important fact. That means that conservation plans to protect a species in a lot of cases were only protecting the habitat pertinent to one sex - in most cases, males. 

Female birds being undercounted, under recognized, and overlooked can and does negatively impact conservation efforts, as well as scientific studies across many related disciplines including ecological, environmental, and evolutionary science. 

Let's be clear - female birds are not often missed intentionally. Often times they are simply overlooked, many birders - both amateur and seasoned - easily miss and/or struggle to identify female birds. 

“If we’re focusing on just one sex—focusing just on the males—then we’re ignoring half of the answer,”- Karan Odom, a researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

We're going to round up some beautiful female birds that have quite different defining characteristics than their male counterparts - so you can brush up on your identification skills as migration season begins! 

Purple Finch, Female. Photo by Shayna Hartley. 

Female Red-winged blackbird. Photo by Heather Kerrison

Female Yellow Warbler. Photo by Heather Kerrison. 

Female Baltimore Oriole. Photo by Kristen Martyn. 

We hope you'll take the time to appreciate and note female birds this spring! 



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