Climate change has become a huge threat to birds in North America, according to reports from the National Audubon Society (NAS). Information from a study the NAS conducted, 588 of North American birds will be affected by changes in climate which will affect their territories. Over the next 65 years, half of the 650 bird species will have to live in smaller areas or will have to relocate entirely. If these species do not successfully adapt to their new living conditions, they may be driven to extinction.
Individual examples show the cost of climate change on these bird species. The Baltimore oriole may disappear from Maryland. In Minnesota the common loon may also vanish. Several other birds–the northern hawk owl, the three-toed woodpecker, the northern gannet, the rufous hummingbird, Baird’s sparrow, and the trumpeter swan–will lose over 90 percent of their territories.
David Yarnold, the president of the NAS, stated that when viewing these threats in terms of “common sense,” it is likely some of the species will be lost to extinction. In order to survive, he suggested, these birds will have to be “heroically resilient.” The threat of climate change will not endanger only birds already suffering low population numbers, but may be harmful to bird species that are currently thriving.
While the birds can potentially move to new territories in order to adjust to the changes in their old ones, life may prove difficult or impossible for them as a result. “Trees don’t fly. Birds do,” Yarnold said, as he explained that certain birds rely on certain trees that might not be available to them once their original territories are no longer available to them. Gary Langham, the chief author of the study, stated that in the future, North Americans will not have the same birds that their grandparents did.
Terry Root, a biologist at Stanford University, has considered a future with less birds. The environment will be altered in different ways not just for birds but for other species. With less birds to eat things like bugs, insects and spiders, may result in a boost in numbers of the various insects. However, she said, “we don’t know.” It is possible other avian might take the niche of the reduced, displaced, or extinct birds.
These effects could be mitigated if carbon emissions are reduced and bird territories are protected. As of now, these birds are not receiving enough protection. “Birds can’t vote,” Yarnold and Langham wrote for The Hamilton Spectator. Nor, they added, can birds make a safe place for themselves. The two insisted human beings will have to be the ones to save them.
According to the report by several groups, climate change is a threat to hundreds of bird species in North America. Both healthy and endangered species will likely be affected. It is uncertain which will survive and in what capacity they will manage to do so. However, taking efforts to protect these species from harm by reducing factors that lead to climate change could make a difference.
By Jillian Moyet