Climate change threatens nation’s birds, new report finds

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     (John Jankowski/for NewsWorks)

    (John Jankowski/for NewsWorks)

    A new national report from the Audubon Society paints a very grim picture for the country’s bird populations.

    A new national report from the Audubon Society paints a very grim picture for the country’s bird populations: Global warming and climate change threaten the survival of hundreds of bird species in the continental United States and Canada, including many of the region’s birds. This is according to a seven-year study conducted by the society, which found that of almost 600 bird species examined, 314 species are at risk. Of those, 126 species are at risk of severe declines by 2050, and another 188 species face the same fate by 2080.

    The report analyzed summer and winter bird distribution data that mainly came from two sources; the Audubon Christmas bird count, and the breeding bird survey, which tracks where birds are in the summer and winter. Scientists then analyzed the relationship between location and climate change said Keith Russell, Urban Important Bird Area Coordinator for Audubon Pennsylvania.

    “Each species has its own range, and it may have that range all year, or it may migrate,” explained Russell. 

    “Conditions in those areas will be changing because of global warming, and as those conditions change, the things that the birds are attracted in that area to will no longer be the same, and the birds will have to adapt to those changes,” he says, adding that this all means some birds will move, and some will disappear altogether.

    “What threatens the birds is not just the temperature that’s changing, but everything that responds to that temperature,” he added. “Everything from when plants bloom to when certain insects are around. Coastlines and beaches and marshes will change, salt water will move up the Delaware River in our area, so we will have brackish water in there, and certain species won’t be able to live in that water.” Russell said that in this region, one of the plants that’s affected by climate change is the sugar maple, which doesn’t like warmer temperatures. “So as different species of plants can no longer survive in this region, the birds that depend on them will no longer be able to survive as well.”

    In Pennsylvania, one of the birds threatened by climate change is the ruffed grouse, according to the Audubon report. Its habitat is predicted to change significantly, so that bird will have to move north. Other species in our region that might be affected are the bald eagle, and the osprey.

    Russell says people can potentially help protect bird species by making their own backyards friendlier habitats. “You can encourage native plants, that will help your yard to be a more resilient area for our native birds,” he explained. “A lot of what threatens our birds is changes in our plant life, aggressive plants are taking over our landscape, for example, global warming helps kudzu, it’s moving north, so the more we can do to keep native plants in our area, the better.”

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