Climate change is killing our birds. What can we do?

Clay Curtis
October 12, 2019

According to a new study from the National Audubon Society, a nonprofit environmental group dedicated to wildlife conservation, almost two-thirds of the North American bird population is facing extinction if global warming hits 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

"Birds are important indicator species, because if an ecosystem is broken for birds, it is or soon will be for people too", Brooke Bateman, a senior climate scientist for the National Audubon Society, said in a statement.

Scientists concluded that 34% of Ohio's 219 bird species are vulnerable to climate change across seasons, including species like warblers, fish crows and sparrows.

While some species are predicted to die due to rising temperatures, other birds that thrive in warmer, southern climates will relocate to northern locales, a move already underway, Bateman said.

Lund said Maine Audubon has been working for years to help reverse the effects of climate change by promoting land conservation and working with landowners and foresters to maintain wildlife habitat, among other things.

The full report showed that 63 percent of 604 species in North America would become vulnerable under a temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius, compared to 54 percent if temperatures rise 2 degrees and 47 percent they go up 1.5 degrees.

Last month, Science published a study by a joint team of conservation biologists describing a grim picture: a steady decline of almost three billion North American birds since 1970, primarily as a result of human activities.

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"A lot of people paid attention to last month's report that North America has lost almost a third of its birds", said David Yarnold, CEO and president of Audubon.

"Birds are living off the same Earth that we are", Wells said.

"What this means for birds is that plants and the insects that live on them that they're expecting to find when they migrate, aren't there", Bonner said.

Enter your zip code into Audubon's Birds and Climate Visualizer to see how climate change will impact your birds, your community, and see how you can help. "Those loons are what drive my work today and I can't imagine them leaving the USA entirely in summer but that's what we're facing if trends continue". "And then on top of the range shifts, we also have the pressure of changes in sea level rise, urbanization, extreme weather events that are going to affect these species no matter where they go".

Dr. Wells said the results should serve as a wake up call that illustrates the stark differences between taking timely policy action on climate change and delaying efforts to reduce emissions - and a harbinger of the broader potential effects that climate change could have on humans in the coming century. "Our elected officials at every level of government must hear from their constituents that this is a priority".

"We already know what we need to do to reduce global warming, and we already have a lot of the tools we need to take those steps", Stone said in a statement.

In 2014, Audubon published its first Birds and Climate Change Report.

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