Wildlife

New study finds birds will need to head further north

  • Sep 23, 2014
  • 366 words
  • 2 minutes
Expand Image
Advertisement

Canada better make some room.

A new study, by New York-based conservation group, the National Audubon Society, found that as the climate changes, birds are flying further north to find more suitable climatic conditions.

“Climate change is displacing hundreds of bird species, many of which are headed deeper into the heart of Canada,” Gary Lagham, the society’s chief scientist, stated in release of the report.

But as they migrate to more suitable climate areas, these birds are losing other parts of their habitat in the process — like apt vegetation or food supply. There are also new competitors and no guarantee the birds will be able to adapt to new environments. For example, a bird used to grasslands could have a hard time in dense forest.

The group looked at 30 years of past citizen science data on birds by looking at the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Survey. They then used that data and matched it with 19 bioclimatic variables to look into the past and build a relationship between birds and climates in North America.

With this new relationship in mind, the society studied 588 species and found 314 of them were either threatened or endangered because of this shift in ranges caused by climate changes.

Some species are already showing significant declines. The Canada warbler, rusty blackbird and olive-sided flycatcher have lost half of their populations. And birds already adapted to the far north, like the ivory gull, may soon have nowhere to go.

“If we can make space available for all birds where they are now and where they’re going to be, we can give them a better chance,” says Tom Auer, a scientist at the society who was also directly involved with the study.

But Canada isn’t the only place affected. As the lower 48 states lose their bird counts, that poses a natural overall changing effect in North America.

“Each unique species is an important part of an ecosystem,” Auer says. “Any time we lose our specialized species of habitats, the overall ecosystem is degraded and not as resilient to changes in the future. It’s important that we keep these birds around.”

Advertisement

Related Content

Heinrich Scherer's 1702 chart of the North Pole

People & Culture

Why the North Pole matters: An important history of challenges and global fascination

In this essay, noted geologist and geophysicist Fred Roots explores the significance of the symbolic point at the top of the world. He submitted it to Canadian Geographic just before his death in October 2016 at age 93.

  • 5167 words
  • 21 minutes
A grizzly bear lies dead on the side of the road

Wildlife

Animal crossing: Reconnecting North America’s most important wildlife corridor

This past summer an ambitious wildlife under/overpass system broke ground in B.C. on a deadly stretch of highway just west of the Alberta border. Here’s how it happened.

  • 3625 words
  • 15 minutes
illegal wildlife trade, elephant foot, ivory, biodiversity

Wildlife

The illegal wildlife trade is a biodiversity apocalypse

An estimated annual $175-billion business, the illegal trade in wildlife is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise. It stands to radically alter the animal kingdom.

  • 3405 words
  • 14 minutes

Environment

The sixth extinction

The planet is in the midst of drastic biodiversity loss that some experts think may be the next great species die-off. How did we get here and what can be done about it?

  • 4895 words
  • 20 minutes