Risk of extinction for two-thirds of birds in North America

  • Risk of extinction for two-thirds of birds in North America

Risk of extinction for two-thirds of birds in North America

According to a new study from the National Audubon Society, a nonprofit environmental group dedicated to wildlife conservation, almost two-thirds of the North American bird population is facing extinction if global warming hits 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit). "We are already seeing the effects of this in South Carolina, from more extreme weather events to flooding and sea level rise", said Angelina Ricci Eisenhauer, Audubon South Carolina's Director of Policy and Communications.

"It's yet another of these wake-up calls".

Loss of habitat or food, harsh weather conditions and rising sea levels are among the effects of climate change that would force ME birds to move farther north, reduce the size of their range and shrink their population, said Jeff Wells, vice president of Boreal Conservation at National Audubon.

In one scenario, where unconstrained emissions lead to a global warming of 3°C over the next century, the report found that 389 species, or 64 per cent, are moderately to highly vulnerable to shifting climate conditions, including 98 per cent of boreal species and 100 per cent of all bird species in the Arctic.

The boreal chickadee, for example, would colonize new parts of Canada and lose about 50 percent of its global range, including all of ME, in the report's worst-case scenario, Wells said. Finding new habitats can put species at risk of extinction. They would include everything from tiny songbirds to big raptors. "Audubon is committed to protecting the places birds need now and in the future and taking action to address the root causes of climate change". Crows and magpies are already appearing in northern latitudes where before they were rarely seen.

Golden eagles are among the 389 types of bird that may not be able to survive in North America, the report says.

To prepare the report - "Survival by Degrees: Bird Species on the Brink" - Audubon scientists studied 604 North American bird species using 140 million bird records, including observational data from bird lovers and field biologists across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. "Most birds will likely experience multiple, compounding threats - unless we curb emissions and prioritize conserving the areas, identified by the models, that will be critical to climate-threatened birds". "There's also the issue of whether the kinds of forest and wetland habitat they prefer can even track northward".

While Bird Studies Canada was not involved in the report, the organization provided some 60,000 individual records to the Audubon Society's data analysis effort.

The authors of the new study suggest there are steps everyone can take to reduce the risk facing North American birds species. One report concluded overall numbers have dropped by three billion since 1970 - about a 30 per cent drop. "When we help birds, we help people too".

"More than 50 per cent of coastal birds will have to adjust their ranges", said Audubon senior scientist Brooke Bateman.

But most birds won't thrive.