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Audubon Report Shows Climate Change Affecting Bird Migration

Bill Gracey

A new Audubon Society report claims the combination of climate change and habitat destruction could put a large number of North American bird populations at risk sooner rather than later.

The report predicts that, of the 588 North American bird species observed in the study, 314 are at risk because of decreased climatic range due to rising temperatures over the next century. 

For example, a bird spending winters in Mississippi could soon spend winters in Missouri.  

And native Hoosier birds, such as the American kestrel, will certainly be affected, says Purdue Wildlife Ecology Professor Barny Dunning.

"The suitable habitat is going to chance and the range is going to decrease," Dunning says. "So we can expect fewer of those birds in our area in the future under a climate change scenario."

The report uses bird count data collected over three decades and carbon emissions projections to determine suitable climates for birds now and in the future as temperatures increase.

Some birds may adapt well to new locations. Others, though, could be forced into areas with a comfortable climate, but unsuitable surroundings. Dunning says that, combined with increasingly partitioned habitats due to rural industrialization, will make species reluctant to settle.

"Migrant birds, you could say 'well, they fly all the way to Mexico, surely they can hop over a power line.' The actual reality is when these formerly extensive habitat patches get reduced down to small pieces, yeah the bird can fly there, but they don't stay," he says.

The report calls for doubling down on habitat conservation efforts and reducing carbon emissions to protect the threatened species.

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