Birds & Climate Change – The Audubon Report

Copyright 2014 National Audubon Society

Every bird species has adapted to the places it currently lives.  But global warming is altering the availability of food and suitable nesting and wintering grounds, and if those shifts are too extreme, birds will be forced to seek out habitat and/ or food supplies elsewhere.  To determine how bird ranges will be affected, Audobon scientists used sophisticated climate models that combine decades of observations from the Audobon Christmas Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Survey, factoring in 17 climate variables, including temperature, precipitation, and seasonal changes.  The models forecast the “climate envelopes,” or ranges, where future conditions are expected to support each species’ historical climate needs.

Here are some important takeaways from the study: 

The models predict the ranges of 588 North American bird species under future climate scenarios

It found that the majority – 314 species-will lose more than 50 percent of their currant range by 2080.

Of the 314 species at risk from climate change,

126 of them, classified as “climate-endangered.” are projected to lose more than 50 percent of their current range by 2050.  The other 188 species are “climate-threatened,” and expected to lose more than 50 percent of their current range by 2080.

While some species may be able to adapt, others will have nowhere to go.

Many of our most cherished birds, including the Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican, and Common Loon, face an increased risk of extinction.

The findings may appear shocking, and we know that a certain amount of change is already inevitable, but the study provides a roadmap for action.

By identifying which birds are most at risk and the places they might inhabit in the future, we can prioritize protections for critical habitat.

To give birds a chance at a future, we need to continue supporting efforts to curb global warming by cutting greenhouse gases. 

These dire outcomes are inevitable only if we do not use this warning as an opportunity to take collective action.

For more information about Audobon’s climate work, go to www.audubon.org/climate.

What you can do to Help Protect Birds.

Audubon’s new science sends a clear message about the serious dangers birds face in a warming world. Protecting them will require both redoubling conservation efforts to safeguard critical habitat and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.  Below are a few important steps you can take right away.  For more ideas and to share your stories, visit www.audubon.org/climate.

Create a Bird-Friendly Yard

Healthy birds will be better equipped to face the challenges of climate change.  Commit to creating safe spaces for birds around your home and community by using fewer pesticides, letting dead trees stand, installing birdbaths, and converting lawns and gardens to native plants.  School grounds, parks, vacant lots, and common areas can all be “bird-scaped”, Learn more at athome.audubon.org.

Get involved with Your Local important Bird Area

Protect the places birds need most today and in the future by pitching in with Audubon’s IBA program, which identifies and conserves areas that are vital to birds and biodiversity.  You can help with IBA restoration, cleanup, citizen science, and field trips.  To get started, find Audubon near you at www.audubon.org/search-by-zip.

Put Birds on Your Community’s Agenda

Use this pullout to begin a conservation with your neighbors, colleagues, and local leaders about why it’s important to protect your community’s birds, and share what you’re doing on behalf of birds. Reach more people by writing a letter to your newspaper, speaking at a community event, or visiting a local school.

Meet With Local Decision Makers

Share this science with state wildlife agencies, city parks departments, extension services, and other groups that manage our natural resources to illustrate how global warming imperils birds, and ask decision makers how they are planning to address it.  For more information on how to help officials use and integrate Audubon’s science, email climatescience@audubon.org

Support Policies That Lower Emissions

Urge leaders at the local, state and national levels to enact policies that lower greenhouse gas emissions and support clean energy.  Renewable portfolio standards, energy efficiency targets, and other proactive measures will reduce emissions and help limit the effects of global warming on birds.  Put these policies on your leaders’ agendas, and publicly support efforts to make them stick.

Sign Up to Learn More About What You Can Do Year Round

Go to www.audubon.org/climate to receive the latest findings, explore climate-related volunteer opportunities in your state or local area, and enlist in Audubon’s forthcoming citizen science project to help monitor birds and document how they respond to a changing climate.


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