18 March 2016
We humans are starting to respond to climate change. The birds already have.
In a study on two continents — North America and Europe — data from 1980 to 2010 shows that populations of our common birds have been affected by climate change and the gap is growing. Bird species expected to do well due to climate change have substantially outperformed those expected to do badly over the 30 year period. It’s the first real demonstration that climate is having a similar, large-scale influence on the abundance of common birds in widely separated parts of the world.(*)
Here are two examples from North America:
American robins (Turdus migratorius) are an adaptable species whose range has expanded as the climate warms. Robins don’t have to go as far south in the winter and now they breed in Alaska.
White-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) are a common winter species in the Lower 48 but when it comes time to breed they’ll be in trouble. As the climate heats up and they move northward, the forest they require for breeding gives way to treeless landscapes such as tundra. It takes decades to grow a forest and the climate is changing faster than the plants can catch up. White-throated sparrows are losing ground. Click here to see their changing map.
More robins, fewer white-throated sparrows. The populations of common birds are affected by climate change.
(photos by Marcy Cunkelman)