Half of all the bird species in North America are at risk of a severe population decline by 2080 if the quick moving pace of global warming continues. The National Audubon Society found data in a recent study that yielded troubling new predictions for the North American bird population. The study was led by chief Audubon scientist Gary Langham who examined more than 500 bird species and determined more than 300 Canadian and American birds could have their habitats reduced by half or more by 2080.
Birds would have to adapt to new habitats with different temperatures and rates of precipitation if they are to survive, Langham explains. “The scale of the disruption we’re projecting is a real punch in the gut,” he said.
The report called “The State of the Birds 2014” finds arid land birds to be the species that will have the steepest decline as there continues to be habitat loss and fragmentation due to climate change. Experts analyzed 30 years of North American climate data and thousands of bird observations over the decades. They mapped out how each bird’s ideal range could shift in the future. The range is considered where the birds live and breed, with the temperatures precipitation and seasonal changes each species needs to live.
The study found that even our national symbol for the United States, the bald eagle, could see its habitat decrease by 75 percent. The habitat of the common loon could disappear in all of the lower 48 states. In Southern California, the black oystercatcher could be forced to abandon coastal areas and move towards British Columbia and Alaska. “What could be missing along with those birds and their ecological niches are their very presence and songs — crucial components of our daily lives and the cultural fabric of our communities,” Langham said.
Climate change by indirect forces, like trees dying off, insect patterns change, and more forest fires could still affect even birds that aren’t forced to move because of the change. Learn more by reading The State of the Birds 2014 Report.