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May 21, 2016 11:36 AM

East Coast's saltmarsh sparrow disappearing, scientists say

The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Scientists say the saltmarsh sparrow is disappearing from its home on the East Coast and could be headed for extinction in as little as 50 years.

The little birds, which weigh about half an ounce, live in coastal areas from Maine to Virginia during the breeding season.

Researchers with a group of universities have been tracking them and say eight out of every 10 of the birds has disappeared in the last 15 years.

They still number in the tens of thousands. But scientists say their population has dropped about 9 percent annually since 1998.

University of Maine professor Brian Olsen says coastal construction and sea-level rise have hurt the birds.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species lists the sparrow as "vulnerable."

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