Lawsuit Filed to Protect "Adorable" Arizona Songbird Threatened by Imported Beetles

The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audobon Society filed a lawsuit in federal court today in an effort to protect the southwestern willow flycatcher bird from imported salt cedar leaf beetles.

The leaf-eating beetles were imported from Kazakhstan a few years ago and released (illegally, says the lawsuit) by the government in Utah. The idea was to try and control the exotic tamarisk trees, which are pests themselves, that seem to be cropping up everywhere.

In just a few years, the bugs spread to Northern Arizona and are now busy destroying the roosts of the endangered birds. Ironically, the flycatchers often nest in the non-native trees because of a previous wave of habitat loss.

From the news release linked above:

"We face loss of the flycatcher in the Southwest because APHIS has broken its promises and refuses to take responsibility for its actions. We now must appeal to the courts to help us save this adorable little migratory songbird," said Dr. Robin Silver of the Center for Biological Diversity.

About 1,300 flycatchers are believed to live in Arizona and New Mexico.The lawsuit demands that U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) review its beetle-releasing plan with a special eye toward the endangered bird. But the Center makes it clear in its news release that restoration of native plants is also crucial.

Sounds like this bird is on its way to joining the dodo and passenger pigeon in oblivion. 

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.