North America Has Lost 3 Billion Birds, Scientists Say


Migrating shorebirds at Kimbles Beach, N.J. Researchers estimate that the population of North American shorebirds alone has fallen by more than a third since 1970.

Jacqueline Larma/AP

Over the past half-century, North America has lost more than a quarter of its entire bird population, or around 3 billion birds.

That’s according to a new estimate published in the journal Science by researchers who brought together a variety of information that has been collected on 529 bird species since 1970.

“We saw this tremendous net loss across the entire bird community,” says Ken Rosenberg, an applied conservation scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y. “By our estimates, it’s a 30% loss in the total number of breeding birds.”

Rosenberg and his colleagues already knew that a number of bird populations had been decreasing.

“But we also knew that other bird populations were increasing,” he says. “And what we didn’t know is whether there was a net change.” Scientists thought there might simply be a shift in the total bird population toward more generalist birds adapted to living around humans.

To find out, the researchers collected data from long-running surveys conducted with the help of volunteer bird spotters, such as the North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. They combined that data with a decade’s worth of data on migrating bird flocks detected by 143 weather radar installations.

Their results show that more than 90% of the loss can be attributed to just a dozen bird families, including sparrows, warblers, blackbirds and finches.

Common birds with decreasing populations include meadowlarks, dark-eyed juncos, horned larks and red-winged blackbirds, says Rosenberg. Grassland birds have suffered a 53% decrease in their numbers, and more than a third of the shorebird population has been lost.

A horned lark

Larry Keller/Getty Images

Bird populations that have increased include raptors, like the bald eagle, and waterfowl.

“The numbers of ducks and geese are larger than they’ve ever been, and that’s not an accident,” says Rosenberg. “It’s because hunters who primarily want to see healthy waterfowl populations for recreational hunting have raised their voices.”

Applied ecologist Ted Simons of North Carolina State University says that trying to enumerate bird populations and tracking them over time is a daunting task with a lot of uncertainty.

“People are doing a wonderful effort to try and understand our bird populations, but the actual systems that we have in place to try and answer really tough questions like this are really far short of what we need,” says Simons. “We’re certainly far from having the tools and having the resources to have real high confidence in our estimates of these populations.”

Still, he says, “I think it is very likely that we are seeing substantial declines in our bird populations, particularly migratory birds.”

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A red-winged blackbird


Other researchers say this continentwide decrease in bird numbers is about what they expected.

“I think that I buy the magnitude of loss,” says Kristen Ruegg, a biologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “Overall, the conclusions weren’t necessarily surprising. I mean, they were depressing but not surprising,”

Ruegg says there have been hints that the loss was this large from a variety of sources over the past few decades. But in most cases, these were species-specific accounts of local extinctions or models of projected losses resulting from things like climate change.

This study, she says, “really sort of wakes people up to the idea that this is happening.”

A dark-eyed junco

Steven Mlodinow/

Elise Zipkin, a quantitative ecologist at Michigan State University, says the loss of individuals can be a big problem.

“Just because a species hasn’t gone extinct or isn’t even necessarily close to extinction, it might still be in trouble,” she says. “We need to be thinking about conservation efforts for that.”

The researchers cite a variety of potential causes for the loss of birds, including habitat degradation, urbanization and the use of toxic pesticides, notes Zipkin.

“And so I think this kind of lays the gauntlet,” she says, “for people to be thinking about ‘All right, how can we estimate maybe the relative contributions of these things to individual populations and their declines.’ ”

CorrectionSept. 19, 2019

An earlier version of this story misspelled Kristen Ruegg’s first name as Kristin.

Driver caught smuggling birds into Singapore

Illegal cargo: After checking the bus, Singapore officials found over 800 birds crammed into 15 crates.
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

More than 200 birds died following a botched attempt by a Malaysian bus driver to smuggle them into Singapore.

A Malaysia-registered bus driven by the 35-year-old male suspect was stopped for security checks at Singapore’s Woodlands Checkpoint from Johor Baru at about 7am on Saturday.

During checks, officers from the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) detected signs of modification around the rear tyres of the bus, said ICA in a joint statement with the National Parks Board (NParks).

“Their suspicions were further aroused when they heard chirping coming from within the bus.

“Upon scrutiny, the officers uncovered 15 containers of 815 birds inside modified compartments above the rear tyres of the bus, ” it said, adding it was the largest seizure of ornamental birds in Singapore in recent years.

Only around 600 of the birds survived. They are currently being cared for under quarantine at NParks’ facility.

The driver, who did not have valid health certificates and import permits, was referred to NParks for investigation.

The haul consisted of 38 white-rumped shamas (murai batu), 10 oriental magpie-robins, 141 oriental white-eyes and 626 munias (scaly-breasted munia and white-headed munia).

The white-rumped shama is a protected species in Malaysia under the Wildlife Conservation Act, while its conservation status in Singapore is classified as rare.

“The health status of animals smuggled into Singapore are unknown and may introduce exotic diseases, such as bird flu, into the country.

“The well-being of the animals will also be affected by poor conditions during the transportation process, ” said the statement.

“The illegal wildlife trade impacts the biodiversity and ecosystems of both source countries and the countries where the wildlife end up in.

“For example, the white-rumped shama, a popular songbird in South-East Asia, is becoming increasingly rare throughout the region because of its popularity in the pet trade.

“As such, NParks strictly regulates the import of animals to prevent the introduction of exotic diseases into Singapore, to safeguard the health and welfare of animals, and to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.”

Birds Are Trying To Adapt To Climate Change — But Is It Too Little, Too Late?

A common guillemot (Uria aalge) brings a sprat to feed to its chick. The laying dates of this species were followed for 19 consecutive years on the Isle of May, off the coast of southeast Scotland. According to a new paper in Nature Communications, many birds are adapting to climate change — but probably not fast enough.

Michael P. Harris

Viktoriia Radchuk, an evolutionary ecologist at Berlin’s Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, wanted to know how animals were responding to climate change.

So she scoured the results of more than 10,000 animal studies — on species from frogs to snakes, from insects to birds to mammals — looking for information on how changing environments were affecting animal behavior. Based on the available data, she decided to focus on birds in the Northern Hemisphere.

As detailed in a new paper in Nature Communications, Radchuk and her co-authors found that many birds are adapting to climate change — but probably not fast enough. “Which means, on average, these species are at risk of extinction,” she says.

The data focused on common and abundant bird species, such as tits, song sparrows and magpies (which are also the most well documented in studies). They showed that some bird populations are breeding, laying eggs and migrating earlier, which makes them better prepared for earlier onsets of spring — a significant effect of climate change.

Radchuk explains that when temperatures warm, plants flower earlier, and insects also develop earlier.

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An adult red-billed gull (Larus novaehollandiae scopulinus) with a chick. The birds are part of a 54-year study on New Zealand’s Kaikoura Peninsula.

Deborah A. Mills

“For many birds, insects are their food source, which means that birds [should] time their egg laying to correspond to the peak of prey abundance,” she says, so their chicks have lots of food. Some birds have been shifting to earlier dates.

“We’ve known for a long time that global climate change is happening. We’ve known for a long time that animals are changing in response to this. But what we really haven’t known is how well the animals are keeping up with the selection,” says Melissa Bowlin, an ecologist at the University of Michigan-Dearborn who was not involved with the study.

The paper, which is largely based on studies from the past 30 years, comes to a stark conclusion: “The temperature is changing so fast that evolution isn’t able to keep up,” Bowlin says.

The abundance of the species in the studies is evidence that they are already better able to adapt to changing environments, says Radchuk. “So we would expect that the species that are rare and in danger already — from habitat fragmentation or invasive species or any other environmental change — would be even more sensitive to climate change.”

Bridget Stutchbury, a field biologist and ornithologist at York University in Toronto, is hopeful because birds have shown resilience in the past.

“At least for birds, many of the studies are done on species that are relatively short-lived, and they reproduce very easily,” she says. “Those traits allow them to adapt and respond quickly to changes.”

Stutchbury points to the bald eagle, whose U.S. population in the lower 48 states declined to 417 pairs in the 1960s but then rebounded to nearly 10,000 in the mid-2000s, after the federal government banned DDT and helped protect their habitat. “They can recover very quickly if we can put the environment back on track for them,” she says.

A flamingo in an Illinois zoo had to be put down after a child threw a rock at it

This file photo shows a flamingo at a zoo in Duisburg, western Germany.

(CNN)A Miller Park Zoo flamingo was euthanized Monday after an elementary school student threw a rock inside the animal’s exhibit.

A representative from the Bloomington, Illinois zoo told CNN affiliate WMBD the rock broke the flamingo’s leg and caused injuries that led to it being put down.
The zoo said it’s working with the student’s family to make sure this is a learning experience, WMBD reported.
The greater flamingo exhibit at the zoo opened in June 2016, according to the city of Bloomington.
According to the University of Michigan, greater flamingos are found in the Middle East in countries like Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, as well as in areas across west Africa, South America and throughout Europe. They’re often hunted across the Middle East and Africa and their eggs are often captured for profit.
They can live up to an average of 30 years, according to the university with those in captivity sometimes reaching 60 years old.
The zoo has both indoor and outdoor exhibits of animals including reindeer, the Sumatran tiger, river otters, red pandas, lemurs, bald eagles, gibbons and red wolves, according to its website.

Man Killed in New Hampshire Hunting Accident–455269143.html

One person was killed in a hunting accident off of Pine Road in Brentwood, New Hampshire Saturday evening.

The 51-year-old victim was a resident of Sandown, New Hampshire. His identity is being withheld by authorities pending notification of his family.

Brentwood police were alerted to an accidental shooting at a bird sanctuary just before 4 p.m. Officers assisted with CPR on the victim. Less than an hour later the victim was pronounced deceased at the scene, according to police.

The incident was ruled an accidental homicide.

Wind Energy And Birds FAQ — Part 1: Understanding The Threats

ABC often receives questions regarding wind energy development and its impacts on birds and other wildlife. In this three-part series, Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign, answers some of the more frequently asked questions about threats: How does wind energy threaten birds? What bird species are most threatened? How does the threat of wind energy compare to that of climate change?

See a full list of references at the end of the post and stay tuned for the second post in this series, scheduled for publication in mid-April.

How does wind energy threaten birds and bats?

Properly sited wind turbines are relatively bird friendly, especially when compared to fossil fuels. However, they are far from benign. Wind turbines and their associated infrastructure — notably power lines and towers — are among the fastest-growing threats to birds and bats in the United States and Canada. At the end of 2016, there were more than 52,000 operating, commercial-scale wind turbines in the United States and many more are currently under construction3.

Raptors, such as this Golden Eagle, are among the birds most threatened by wind energy development. Photo by David Lamfrom

Raptors, such as this Golden Eagle, are among the birds most threatened by wind energy development. Photo by David Lamfrom

We estimate that hundreds of thousands of birds and bats die every year when they accidentally collide with turbine blades9, 172526. Fragile-bodied bats can even succumb to the pressures created when the giant turbine blades pass through the air, a phenomenon known as barotrauma10.

Associated power lines and towers, which carry the electrical power generated by wind turbines into the grid19, kill an additional 8 to 57 million birds every year through collisions and electrocutions18. Furthermore, wind energy development can also contribute to habitat loss and road and other infrastructure construction, all of which can have significant impacts on birds7, 27.

When it comes to wind energy, siting is everything. The risks are, of course, much greater when wind turbines are placed in areas attracting large concentrations of birds and bats12. When wind energy projects are located in or near major migratory routes, stopover sites, or key breeding or foraging areas, the losses are expected to be great. ABC believes that such high-risk areas should be avoided at all costs. However, state and federal regulatory agencies have not done a very good job of keeping wind projects away from these high-concentration bird areas4.

Do we know exactly how many birds are killed by wind turbines and wind energy infrastructure every year?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. All we have at present are very rough and potentially biased estimates9, 172526 that are based on an accumulation of studies from individual, unidentified wind energy facilities.

The reason? The wind industry treats these data as trade secrets and generally does not share them with the public or concerned conservation organizations. Some wind energy developers have even sued to hide these data from the public2, 14. Hawai’i is currently the only state that requires mortality data be collected by independent, third-party experts and makes the information available to the public on request13.

Biologists estimate that millions of birds are killed every year by wind turbines and the power lines and infrastructure that supports the wind energy industry. Photo by Marijs / Shutterstock

Biologists estimate that millions of U.S. birds are killed every year by wind turbines and the power lines and infrastructure that supports the wind energy industry. Photo by Marijs / Shutterstock

These estimates that are made public — all of which range in the hundreds of thousands of birds and bats killed annually — are based on non-standardized data that were collected and reported by paid consultants to the wind industry. This is a direct conflict of interest15 that may lead to a reporting bias in favor of the wind companies (meaning, the numbers of killed birds and bats may be under-reported).

There are also methodological challenges. Dead birds are difficult to find under wind turbines, and studies have shown that even trained observers can easily miss them. Additionally, predators are known to locate and remove carcasses, which can also lead to underestimates of the number of bird and bat carcasses documented15.

Deaths due to collisions or electrocutions at power lines and towers associated with wind energy development are even more difficult to estimate, as there are thousands of miles of power lines, some in remote locations, that are seldom or never monitored for bird deaths18.

Finally, many of these estimates are several years old and are likely now out of date. In the years since many of these data were collected, wind energy companies have built many more turbines, power lines, and other infrastructure. This suggests that the toll on birds and bats is now much greater.

The fact that the energy companies are allowed to self-report their own violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) is a violation of the first principle of scientific integrity — that is, those that have a vested interest in the outcome should not be the ones collecting and reporting their results to regulatory agencies1, 5.

Are certain species of birds more impacted by wind energy than others?

Knowing the number and type of species affected by wind projects depends on the ability to detect birds at the site in question at some point during their life-cycle. This is a challenge for all of the reasons previously mentioned — reporting is voluntary, inconsistent, and out of date.

That said, we do know that many species of birds are impacted by wind turbines25 and that those species that are most susceptible to turbine collisions and/or displacement are raptors, night-migrating songbirds, and grassland birds.

The overhead turbines and power lines associated with wind energy give predators a place to sit and watch for prey such as Greater Sage-Grouse, increasing the threat of predation for these grassland birds. Photo by Tom Reichner/Shutterstock

Turbines and power lines associated with wind energy give predators a place to sit and watch for prey such as Greater Sage-Grouse, increasing the threat of predation for these grassland birds. Photo by Tom Reichner/Shutterstock

Of these, grassland birds may not be as susceptible to collisions as raptors and night-migranting songbirds. However, some species, such as Greater Sage-Grouse, are stressed and displaced by tall structures where their predators can roost. This can influence the birds’ reproductive success and prevent genetic interchange between populations, thus threatening the species’ long-term survival16, 20, 22, 2428.

Raptors — though they have excellent vision — have their eyes focused on the ground looking for prey and do not detect the approach turbine blades, and night-time migrants do not see the blades.

Doesn’t climate change pose a bigger threat to birds than wind turbines? Aren’t wind turbines better than the alternatives of coal or natural gas?

Climate change certainly poses a significant threat to wildlife and their habitats, and wind power is viewed as a major player in our efforts to combat climate change.

However, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical.  Back in the 1950s and ’60s, hydroelectric dams were viewed as a source of clean, renewable energy.  Now they are being torn down due to their unintended environmental impacts11. A recent study even suggests that hydroelectric dams may contribute to climate change6.

The same goes for biofuels, which are now being seen as a contributor to climate change, rather than a viable source of clean, renewable energy23. Poorly sited wind turbines could be next in line for enhanced scrutiny.

Wind energy offers some environmental benefits over other forms of energy, but is not without its own risks. Photo by Marijs / Shutterstock

Wind energy offers some environmental benefits over other forms of energy, but is not without its own risks. Photo by Marijs/Shutterstock

Unfortunately, many individuals — and even some conservation organizations — have embraced wind energy completely without asking the hard questions about its environmental impacts. The wind industry and its proponents have contributed to this situation themselves, downplaying its impacts on wildlife3 while simultaneously overselling the industry’s ability to mitigate associated problems8. At the same time, industry players have worked behind the scenes to try to minimize state and federal regulations and to attack important environmental legislation, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act21.

Wind turbines are a cleaner source of energy than fossil fuels. This is true. But does this mean wind energy developers should be less regulated than others in the energy sector? Should they be allowed to kill tens of thousands of federally protected birds and bats annually with impunity? We at ABC believe the answer to these questions is “no.”

In response to this very question, we at ABC developed the concept of “Bird-Smart” wind energy development. Put simply, this term is used to describe wind energy projects that are designed to minimize bird fatalities to every extent possible12. Bird-Smart wind energy:

  • ensures turbines are located away from high bird collision risk areas;
  • employs effective (tested) mitigation to minimize bird fatalities;
  • conducts independent, transparent, post-construction monitoring of bird and bat deaths to help inform mitigation; and
  • calculates and provides fair compensation for the loss of ecologically important, federally protected birds.

Editor’s note: Learn more about Bird-Smart wind energy, and look for the next installment in our wind energy FAQ series for more information.


Second Tennessee flock found with bird flu

WASHINGTON — The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed a second case of highly pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza in a commercial breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee.

This H7N9 strain is of North American wild bird lineage and is the same strain of avian influenza that was previously confirmed in Tennessee in a flock of 73,500 breeding broiler chickens.

It is not the same as the China H7N9 virus that has impacted poultry and infected humans in Asia, nor is it related to the virus that caused the 2015 U.S. outbreak.

The flock of 55,000 chickens is located in the Mississippi flyway, within three kilometers of the first Tennessee case.

Samples from the affected flock, which displayed signs of illness and experienced increased mortality, were tested at Tennessee’s Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.

In 2015, an avian influenza outbreak triggered the destruction of millions of chickens and turkeys in the Midwest.

The USDA also said a flock of 84,000 turkeys at a Jennie-O Turkey Store farm near Barron, Wisconsin, had been confirmed with a low pathogenic H5N2 virus. The USDA stressed it was different from the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus that devastated the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.


State officials quarantined the affected premises, and depopulation has begun. Federal and state partners will conduct surveillance and testing of commercial and backyard poultry within a 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) radius of the site.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is working directly with poultry workers at the affected facilities to ensure that they are taking the proper precautions to prevent illness and contain disease spread.

As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. kills bacteria and viruses.

Affects all poultry

Avian influenza (AI) is caused by an influenza type A virus that can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl) and is carried by free flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds.

© 2017 Nebraska Rural Radio Association.

Bird Flu Is on the Rise—But the GOP Wants to Downsize the Agencies That Track It

Meanwhile, take the H7N9 poll at:

MAR. 15, 2017

For the second time in three years, a strain of avian flu is on the move through large-scale US chicken farms, alighting in Tennessee last week and more recently (in a milder form) in neighboring Alabama. Neither are known to infect humans.

Public health officials have been warning for decades that massive livestock confinements make an ideal breeding ground for new virus strains.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and the GOP-dominated Congress are mulling deep budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency that tracks such flu outbreaks and works with the US Department of Agriculture and local authorities to “minimize any human health risk” they cause.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act would eliminate a federal program called the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides the CDC with $891 million in annual funding, about an eighth of its budget. The cuts wouldn’t directly affect the CDC’s flu response program, but as Stat News notes, the CDC “would have a big hole to fill” if the Prevention and Public Health Fund dried up. That’s because it provides funding to crucial functions like promoting vaccines ($300 million for that alone), and the shortfall would have to be made up from other programs—putting the whole agency, potentially including the flu-tracking program, under budgetary stress.

Meanwhile, Trump isn’t expected to provide any additional funding for the CDC when he releases his proposed budget later this week. The opposite, in fact. The president has already announced his intention to boost military spending by $54 billion annually and offset it with an equal level of cuts from federal programs.

So the federal agency responsible for keeping the public safe from avian flu is looking at some serious budget stress going forward. According to the CDC, the risk that people will come down with the flu strain is “low,” but it still sees fit to work with the Department of Agriculture and state authorities on tracking outbreaks.

And public health officials have been warning for decades that massive livestock confinements make an ideal breeding ground for new virus strains. In its authoritative 2009 report, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production warned that the “continual cycling of viruses and other animal pathogens in large herds or flocks increases opportunities for the generation of novel flu viruses through mutation or recombinant events that could result in more efficient human-to-human transmissions.” It added, “Agricultural workers serve as a bridging population between their communities and the animals in large confinement facilities.”

In Asia, a different strain of avian flu is circulating on poultry farms—and it sickened 460 people in China, causing 78 deaths, between the end of September 2016 and the end of February 2017, according to the World Health Organization. The CDC notes that most of those cases came from direct exposure to poultry, while person-to-person spread of the virus is “rare.” The nightmare scenario arrives when an avian flu strain mutates to both jump to people and spread easily among us.

Avian flu found in duck in Alaska on major bird migratory route

Avian flu found in duck in Alaska on major bird migratory route

The H5N2 strain of bird flu was discovered in a wild mallard duck in Fairbanks, the first time the disease, which killed 50 million chickens and turkeys in the U.S. last year, has been found in the country in nearly 14 months

The H5N2 strain of Avian flu has been found in a wild mallard duck in Fairbanks, Alaska, the first time the virus has appeared in the U.S. in 14 months. The discovery is significant, as Alaska lies directly on the migratory routes of birds that are headed to the lower parts of North America an Asia, making it a key location for introducing avian diseases from other locations. The virus has not been found in any wild birds in the U.S. since last June, when 50 million domestic birds died from the disease.

During the outbreak last year, millions of dollars were lost, as export partners suspended trade with countries and states with infected birds. Egg prices increased to record highs and there were turkey meat shortages. Last summer’s outbreak of avian flu was attributed to the droppings of wild ducks and geese flying across the country. Entire flocks of chickens and turkeys died after being infected.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued recommendations for farmers and poultry companies to increase their adherence to protocols for cleanliness and security, to try and ensure the health of their birds.


After Losing Half A Beak, Grecia The Toucan Becomes A Symbol Against Abuse

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On display at ZooAve Animal Rescue in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Grecia, the chestnut-mandibled toucan, can now eat on its own and sing with the new beak. Grecia was in rehabilitation for months after receiving a 3-D-printed nylon prosthesis. Carrie Kahn/NPR 

On display at ZooAve Animal Rescue in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Grecia, the chestnut-mandibled toucan, can now eat on its own and sing with the new beak. Grecia was in rehabilitation for months after receiving a 3-D-printed nylon prosthesis.

Carrie Kahn/NPR

Remember the toucan in Costa Rica who had its upper beak hacked off by a perpetrator who was never found?

Well, here’s an update to a story we first told you about last year. And, spoiler alert — it has a happy ending.

Local residents brought the bird to a nearby animal rescue center. And thanks to its dedicated workers, amazing doctors and engineers, the toucan now has a prosthetic beak.

That new beak and Grecia, as the bird’s called, went on public display just this last week at ZooAve, a private animal rescue center about 30 minutes outside Costa Rica’s capitol.

Nine-year-old Leonardo Jimenez was thrilled to finally see the bird.

“This is the third time I’ve tried to see Grecia,” he says.

Jimenez started following Grecia’s plight ever since the bird was brought here in January, 2015. Nearly its entire top beak was cut off.

“She was really bad off,” says ZooAve caretaker Ronald Sibaja. “All that was left of the top beak was a jagged bloody stump”.

Sibaja refers to Grecia as “she,” although no one knows its gender. It would have to take a blood test to determine its sex, an added stress Sibaja says the injured bird didn’t need.

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Visitors enter the front gate of ZooAve Animal Rescue, Grecia the toucan’s permanent home. Carrie Kahn/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Carrie Kahn/NPR

Visitors enter the front gate of ZooAve Animal Rescue, Grecia the toucan’s permanent home.

Carrie Kahn/NPR

“When the veterinarian did that first exam we all thought she would have to be euthanized,” says Sibaja.

Toucans need their beaks for everything from eating to regulating body temperature. But he says you could tell Grecia wanted to live. She sang as best she could and would try to eat.

Sibaja says he had read about eagles and ducks getting prosthetic beaks and suggested one for Grecia.

When the decision was made to get the bird a new beak, news of Grecia and her prosthesis campaign went viral. A 3-D printing company from the U.S. with partners in Costa Rica signed on to make the beak.

Filmmaker Paula Heredia documented Grecia’s year-long recovery for Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet.