The National Audubon Society issued a somber report yesterday about how America’s birds will react to anticipated climate changes. Another is expected today from Cornell.
According to the Audubon bird study, half of all 588 bird species in North America—including the bald eagle, a national symbol—face large climate shifts that could cut their habitats and cause severe population decline by 2080 if climate change continues at its present pace.
The very comprehensive first-of-a-kind study uses 30 years of North American climate data, records from the American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, and climate projections from a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Gary Langham, chief Audubon scientist, led the team of Audubon bird study ornithologists. They examined more than 500 bird species. Their work will help federal wildlife officials such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which co-funded the study, improve strategies to conserve bird species and their necessary habitats. An article from Louis Sagahun in the Los Angeles Times quotes Langham:
“What could be missing along with those birds and their ecological niches are their very presence and songs — crucial components of our daily lives and the cultural fabric of our communities.”
Researchers have created several scenarios of bird geographic distribution during breeding and nonbreeding seasons through the end of the century. Within these Audubon bird study scenarios, 126 species are considered “climate endangered” because their entire habitat will probably change within 65 years. Others are less threatened, and some—like the American robin, crow, and blue jay—have the potential for habitat expansion.
The Audubon bird study displays detailed interactive color maps for many species and “Take Action” pledges here. You can filter the maps by species or by state or province. The darker the color on the map, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. We feature the Common Loon example at the end of this article.
The study upends global conservation status and conservation priorities previously set by wildlife and government agencies. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, several federal agencies, Cornell University, and private organizations will release a similarly bleak U.S. “state of the birds” report later today.
The worst-case scenario may not be the one that comes to pass—but only if the US and other world governments get moving quickly with climate talks scheduled in New York later this month, Lima this winter, and at next year’s Paris talks.