It’s no secret that wildlife are losing their habitats and resources due to climate change; these two words hover above us like a bad omen. Not to mention human expansion: it’s hard leaving ourselves out from the equation. Since the Industrial Revolution, human activity has increased CO2, thereby creating a warming effect. So what does climate change mean for birds that rely on fragile habitats and age-old migration patterns? If you’re already seeing variations in bird behavior, you’re not alone. According to Audubon‘s recent Birds and Climate Change Report, 60% of 305 bird species found in the North American are altering their flight northward by an average of 35 miles as the atmosphere and oceans continue warming.
Some of our favorite birds are showing signs of distress under our new system of global warming. Birds are facing depleting forests, grassland and other habitats corrupted by hydro-fracking. Add to that, the stress of climate adaptation. The Audubon report analyzed over 40 years of data and 588 North American bird species, finding clues that show grim realities upsetting the natural balance.
Using international greenhouse emission samples, Audubon has created maps predicting each bird’s ideal climatic range in the future. These maps can be used for conservation efforts. Citizen-scientist observations also point to what temperatures, precipitation, and seasonal changes birds will need to survive.
For those that say climate change just means birds will have to travel farther up north, possibly to higher elevation– this is not a clear-cut survival plan. At least 314 at-risk-species not only face changing their movement, but also low survival numbers, due to habitat loss or inhospitable areas. What if there are no alternative habitats?
Some at-risk species include the Hooded Oriole, Bald Eagle, and Spotted Owl. The Mississippi Kite will lose 88% of its current summer range by 2080, meaning it won’t be living within its home state. It is predicted that the Black-billed Magpie found in California, which usually nests in small colonies will lose 80% of it summer range and 100% of its winter range by 2080 due to climate change. Though these magpies prefer mature oaks, it may not be possible to find them up north, and forest growth can’t fix the problem quickly enough.
Then there’s the Cerulean Warbler, the tiny blue birds who love nesting in the treetops. They can be found in the deciduous forests of West Virginia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Their numbers are declining at an alarming rate. The warblers’ winter habitat in the Northern Andes is being invaded by coffee plantations, and its summer home in eastern North America (Appalachia region) is being taken by coal mining and residential development. But all is not lost, the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) is working to restore forest areas on once mined land. So far, they have taken part in the planting of 60 million trees on about 87,000 acres, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In the long-term, birds will need to adapt to changes in climate and habitat by finding new migration patterns, resources, and habitats. Only those birds that adapt within these stressful conditions will survive. But it is also through curving our consumption and living sustainably that we can lessen the speed at which climate change is accelerating, and save our birds from extinction.
Want to help conservation efforts? Some parks offer bird conservation events and programs. Check out our Pocket Ranger® mobile Apps to find a park with great bird watching near you. To document your findings or bird rarities, use the new, Pocket Ranger Bird Feed™ App.