The state Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday amended its list of endangered and threatened species to reflect the current status of breeding bird populations in the state and to update scientific name for a species of warbler.
The birds involved are the upland sandpiper, northern harrier, long-eared owl and blackpoll warbler.
The upland sandpiper, a grassland nesting bird long-classified as threatened, has been moved to the endangered species list because it has declined precipitously over the last two decades and virtually has disappeared from Pennsylvania.
"We believe the upland sandpiper's rarity and diminished breeding range warrant this move," said Daniel Brauning, Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Division chief.
The northern harrier, once a rare but regular breeder in the state, has experienced a marked decline in Pennsylvania, as well as declines in northwest and northcentral regions over the last few decades, prompting the board to approve adding the species to the state's list of threatened birds.
The northern harrier is listed as either endangered or threatened in most neighboring states.
Long-eared owls are extremely rare breeders in Pennsylvania and difficult to survey.
Nesting locations have been confirmed in only seven locations in recent years, despite a concerted survey effort over much of the last decade; most nests are in the Ridge and Valley and Appalachian Plateau regions.
The rarity and scattering of nest records within the state have prompted the proposal to list the long-eared owl as threatened.
"Whenever wildlife managers designate animals as endangered or threatened species, it means their numbers are low, their habitat is at risk and they need specialized management or care to protect and hopefully increase their populations," said Carl G. Roe, Game commission executive director.
"If there is one constant, it is that the world and living conditions change and consequently affect wildlife populations and/or distribution," he added. "Some changes are caused by natural influences such as fires, weather and disease. Others are the result or byproduct of human activities: timbering, pollution, pesticide use, development, farming and so on. Introduction of species also can influence a native species' population."
Finally, in a reorganization of warbler names in 2011 by the American Ornithologist's Union, the genus Dendroica was changed to Setophaga, necessitating an administrative change in the scientific name of the blackpoll warbler, which is on the state's endangered species list.
Roe said the agency recently published a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin to seek public comment on proposed language to make changes to the listing of certain bat species based on the impact of white-nose syndrome.
The agency will review the public input received about the proposed language and may present additional changes to the state's list of endangered and threatened species of bats.
However, action was not taken in regard to the listing of any bats.