Nearly half of the bird species in the continental U.S. and Canada are threatened by global warming. Many of these species could go extinct without decisive action to protect their habitats and reduce the severity of global warming. That’s the startling conclusion reached by Audubon scientists in a new study.
Here in Pennsylvania, birds threatened by global warming include Purple Finch, Baltimore Oriole, Bald Eagle, and Wild Turkey.
Of 588 bird species examined in the study, 314 are at risk. Of those, 126 species are at risk of severe declines by 2050, and a further 188 species face the same fate by 2080, with numerous extinctions possible if global warming is allowed to erase the havens birds occupy today.
“The greatest threat our birds face today is global warming,” said Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham, who led the investigation. “That’s our unequivocal conclusion after seven years of painstakingly careful and thorough research. Global warming threatens the basic fabric of life on which birds – and the rest of us – depend, and we have to act quickly and decisively to avoid catastrophe for them and us.”
To understand the links between where birds live and the climatic conditions that support them, Langham and other Audubon ornithologists analyzed 30 years of historical North American climate data and tens of thousands of historical bird records from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Understanding those links then allowed scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive – and not survive – in the future.
The study also reveals areas that are likely to remain stable for birds even as climate changes, enabling Audubon to identify “stronghold” areas that birds will need to survive in the future.
The result is a roadmap for bird conservation in coming decades under a warming climate. The study provides a key entry point for Audubon’s greater engagement on the urgent issue of global warming. Responding to the magnitude of the threat to our birds, Audubon is greatly expanding its climate initiative, aiming to engage a larger and more diverse set of voices in support of protecting birds.
Solutions will include personal choices to conserve energy and create backyard bird habitat, local action to create community climate action plans, state-based work to increase rooftop solar and energy efficiency, and our work in Important Bird Areas and other efforts to protect and expand bird habitats.
The results of Audubon’s Climate Report are currently available online at climate.audubon.org. There, you can find the science and effects on birds — down to the species — in arresting detail. For even more information — and potential solutions — check out the current issue of Audubon Magazine, fully available online alongside Audubon’s Climate Report.
Join Sarah Hall, President of Northeast PA Audubon and Forest Specialist from the Wayne Conservation District, on a hike through the forest at Shuman Point Natural Area at Lake Wallenpaupack. We’ll take a look at the changes in the forest since a recent timber harvest was completed last year, as well as discuss the overall health of the forest, invasive impacts and local wildlife that call this forest home. Meet at 11am at Shuman Point Natural Area on Route 590, Lakeville, PA. Be prepared for hiking outdoors and dress for the weather. For more information, please call Sarah at (570) 253-0930.
This past July, Chris Fischer, who just completed a two-year term as our president, joined fellow Audubon chapter leaders from the Atlantic Flyway at Audubon’s Hog Island Camp in Maine for the annual Audubon Chapter Leadership Program.
The week-long program was filled with presentations, workshops and plenty of opportunities for chapter leaders to engage with each other. Participants shared their experiences and ideas about challenges common to their respective chapters such as attracting new members, recruiting volunteers, fundraising, and more. Leaders from National Audubon shared their priorities for chapters, including creating bird-friendly communities, growing international connections, and the forthcoming Climate Change initiative (stay tuned!).
“Continuing its recognition that the power of Audubon is in our grassroots network — our chapters — it is clear that National Audubon is committed to growing the vision of ‘one Audubon,’ providing chapters with the guidance and support needed to establish these initiatives across the Audubon network,” said Chris.
While it was a full week, participants did get out of the classroom a few times. Atlantic Puffins, Black Guillemots, Arctic Terns, and Roseate Terns are just a few of the seabirds seen on an early morning excursion to Eastern Egg Rock island. Participants also spent a morning in the rain exploring the many varieties of life that can be found in the intertidal zone, topped with a late-morning snack, a Hog Island specialty — freshly-boiled periwinkle snails, picked from their spiral shells and dipped in melted butter.This year, the chapter leadership group was fortunate to share the island with the “Raptor Rapture” program for the week, thereby having the privilege of being able to sit in on fascinating evening presentations by Scott Weidensaul (PA ornithologist and best-selling author), Rob Bierregaard (raptor expert), Yossi Leshem (Israel’s best known ornithologist), and Steve Kress (founder of Project Puffin). One of the week’s highlights was when Scott and Rob decided to band the osprey chicks, known to thousands through the Osprey Cam.
“I want to thank both the Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society and the National Audubon Society for their support, making it possible for me to attend this program,” Chris said. “Attending the leadership program was an enriching experience, both personally and professionally. I am excited to have come away with new friends and connections throughout the Audubon network. While I completed my term as President of the Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society at the end of July, I look forward to maintaining my involvement on the board of directors as we continue working to make a difference for both birds and people here in Northeast Pennsylvania.”