A new study suggests that more than half of the bird species in the United States and Canada will be affected by climate change.

The National Audubon Society published its dismal report on Tuesday, September 9, based on the group’s 7-year study. The group calls its research “the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, and it’s the closest thing we have to a field guide to the future of North American birds.”

Audubon scientists surmise that, due to global warming, the migratory routes and habitats of 314 out of the 588 bird species residing in the U.S. and Canada are now, or soon will be, threatened by climate change. Projection models indicate that these 314 species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range–the range of temperatures, precipitation, and seasonal changes each species needs to survive–by 2080.

Audubon pulled from three decades of citizen-scientist observations for the study, and reviewed more than 40 years of climate data and records from bird censuses conducted by the Audubon and the U.S. Geological Survey. Researchers compared changes in bird migration patterns to changes in climate to forecast how each bird species will be affected.

Of those 314 bird species identified to be at-risk, the report identifies 188 as climate threatened. These species are projected to lose more than 50 percent of their current range by 2080. The remaining 126 out of the 314 at-risk species are the worst off, classified as climate endangered. This means that the projections show these birds losing more than 50 percent of their current range by 2050.

The Bald Eagle is just one example of a species facing a critical situation. Projections show that this bird could lose 73% of its range by 2080.

The report notes that many of these species may be able to locate suitable habitats elsewhere. But many will not fare so well.

The National Audubon Society has a mission to “conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.” The “Audubon Birds and Climate Report” was made possible through support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And the organization hopes the findings shed light on the impending danger from global warning, and provides officials with key information to help focus and prioritize conservation efforts.

Audubon Magazine devoted its entire September/October 2014 issue to the subject of birds and climate change.


Photo: Ken Janes 

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