New York Birds At Risk From Climate Change

By Rick Karlin, Albany Times Union

Having good habitat in correct places may help wildlife resist some negative impacts of climate change

ALBANY – Hundreds of bird species face long-term extinction if their habitats continue to grow warmer, according to the National Audubon Society, which recently released a report outlining projections of global warming in future decades if no action is taken to contain it.

American woodcock

The American woodcock is one of numerous eastern birds whose ranges may shift northward if climate change continues unabated./Tim Flanigan

Audubon scientists studied 604 North American bird species using 140 million records, including observations from bird fanciers and field biologists nationwide. They found that two-thirds of the birds studied would be threatened by climate change, but keeping global temperatures down could help up to 76 percent of them.

The changes also could drive birds found in the Albany Region and Adirondacks to different locations, due to the changes in vegetation that can result from climate change, according to scientists.

That could include loons, those iconic Adirondack water birds, and ruffed grouse, both of which could be driven northward.

“Many of these birds are going to have range shifts,” said Jillian Liner, director of conservation for Audubon New York.

The study focused on climate change predictions that could impact factors like food sources or the configuration of water bodies in bird habitats.

“Climate change is local,” Ana Paula Tavares, executive director of Audubon New York said with the release of the report, Survival by Degrees.

Among the New York birds that will likely be affected are the eastern towhee, eastern whip-poor-will, field sparrow, red headed woodpecker, wood thrush and American woodcock as well as the scarlet tanager.

The saltmarsh sparrow also is vulnerable as are other coastal birds found on Long Island.

Audubon’s report is based on the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that offered models, or warming scenarios, predicting what might happen if global warming continues unabated.

It also comes less than a month after the journal Science published findings that indicate North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970.

The warmest scenario looks at a 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2080, in which 305 bird species would face three or more climate-related impacts. Three degrees Celsius translates to about 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Read the Audubon report here.

In the report, Audubon offers a ZIP-code-based tool, the Birds and Climate Visualizer, to help users understand the impacts on birds in the regions where they live.