Birds at risk due to climate change
Hundreds of bird species in the USA (including the Bald Eagle and eight state birds, from Idaho to Maryland) are at "serious risk" due to climate change, says a report from the Audubon Society released late Monday.
Some species are forecast to lose more than 95% of their current ranges. "Wherever people live, there will be birds disrupted by climate change," says report author and Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham.
"This cuts across all species," he added. "It's a punch in the gut. The greatest threat our birds face today is global warming."
The study, which took seven years to complete, is the first detailed analysis of the impacts of climate change on 588 species of birds in the breeding and non-breeding season across the continental U.S. and Canada.
As the world warms, the Baltimore oriole will not be found in Maryland in 2080, the Mississippi kite will move north, east and pretty much out of its namesake state, and the California gull will mostly be a summer stranger to the Golden State.
The bald eagle, the USA's national bird, might have its habitat decreased by 75% by 2080, the Audubon report says.
According to the study, these state birds will all be pushed out of their states completely or will become rare in their states if climate change continues on its current trajectory:
--Idaho and Nevada: Mountain Bluebird
--Louisiana: Brown Pelican
--Maryland: Baltimore Oriole
--Minnesota: Common Loon
--New Hampshire: Purple Finch
--Pennsylvania: Ruffed Grouse
--Utah: California Gull
--Vermont: Hermit Thrush
--Washington, D.C.: Wood Thrush
Using computer models of various future climate scenarios as determined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Audubon scientists uncovered the climate sensitivity of 588 species of North American birds, combining four decades of historical bird data and climate date to predict down to a 100-square-kilometer grid how the birds will respond.
There are about 800 species of birds in North America, Langham says, so this study accounts for nearly 75% of North American birds.
Overall, of the 588 species studied, Audubon identified 314 bird species that are either endangered or threatened in some way, as they would lose "more than half of their geographic range through the end of the century," noted the study.
Some would be hit even harder: "For 28 species, projections suggest that their climatically suitable range disappears entirely under climate change."
During breeding season, many species would shift from the U.S. to Canada, while during the non-breeding season, some birds would become less frequent in California, the Gulf region, and southern coastal states.
The report recommends that climate sensitivity be considered as part of current conservation plans and also to develop strategies that take into account the birds' shrinking and shifting geographic ranges.
"The persistence of many North American birds will depend on their ability to colonize climatically suitable areas outside of current ranges and management actions that target climate adaptation," the report notes.
The study was funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
On Tuesday, several federal agencies, Cornell University and a number of private organizations will release a separate U.S. "state of the birds" report, and the outlook will be bleak.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick wrote in a preview last month in The New York Times that 230 species "are currently in danger of extinction or at risk of becoming so" and that two dozen common birds, such as nighthawks, are showing "early warning signals of distress."
Contributing: Associated Press