Warnings From Audubon Climate Report
January 7, 2015.
Last September, when the National Audubon Society released its Audubon Climate Report, the seven-year investigation warned that more than half of the 588 North American bird species could be “climate-threatened” or “climate- endangered” in less than 100 years.
“When…you see that we’re looking at 314 North American bird species at risk by the end of this century—it just takes your breath away,” said Gary Langham, Audubon’s chief scientist.
The study, which covers Alaska, Canada and the lower 48 states, drew on three decades of citizen science observations. Some data came from the Christmas Bird Count. This annual survey began over 100 years ago. Now the highly coordinated effort, involving thousands of birders, monitors bird populations all across North America within a narrow date range every December. Additional data came from the North American Breeding Bird Survey launched in 1966. It tracks 2900 bird nesting routes on a regular basis throughout the breeding season.
In addition to the Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, working with conservation partners, issues an annual State of the Birds report, which also shows that bird populations and habitats are declining.
“Every bird lives within some kind of climate envelope,” says David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “That’s a way to think about it. And what the [Climate] report says is that these climate envelopes are going to be shifting in really dramatic ways.”
These reports serve as a wake-up call and a guide to identifying places that could continue to provide valuable habitats. Some actions are already underway.
Among other initiatives, the Cornell Lab, through its Conservation Science Program, is encouraging birders to submit records of sightings of five, high-priority, long distance migrant bird species: the Olive-sided Flycatcher, and the Blue-winged, Canada, Cerulean, and Golden-winged warblers.
And in West Virginia and North Carolina, where the deciduous forests are home to many vulnerable species of wood warblers, Audubon North Carolina is already working with both state parks and private landowners to protect Appalachian land. “If we can save the biggest blocks across a wide elevation range,” says Curtis Smalling, Audubon North Carolina’s director of land bird conservation, “then we will be able to slow these declines, and perhaps give these species a chance to adapt.”