photo by Doris Rafaeli

What is the Connection Between Birds & Climate Change?

Earlier this year Audubon released Survival by Degrees, an in depth look at the threats climate change poses for birds. See our blog post on how Bucks County Audubon is working to protect birds from our changing climate.

Birds have long been an indicator of unhealthy environments. There is the proverbial canary in a coal mine and the alarming loss of nearly an entire generation of bald eagles due to the accumulation of the pesticide DDT that caused eggs to be too fragile to hatch.

Birds are an excellent indicator of environmental health. People have long been fascinated by birds, and our studies have given us an intimate knowledge of how they interact with their habitats, where and when they migrate, and which species are common or rare in a given location. We’ve developed apps like eBird, that let birdwatchers all over the world become citizen scientists and gather more data than ever before. All of this data means we can track changes in bird behavior over time.

Birds are sensitive to environmental changes. When their habitats become hostile, they possess a unique ability to move locales faster and farther than us earthbound animals. This ability makes them an early warning system, giving off alarm signals before we might otherwise be aware of impending problems.

Survival by Degrees makes it clear that birds are sounding the alarm loud and clear – if the current pace of warming continues, two-thirds of North American bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change. The report includes a Bird and Climate Visualizer, which lets you see what birds are at risk in your backyard.

Yellow Warbler Photo by Brian Collier

Here in Bucks County 30 species will be at high or moderate risk of extinction unless action is taken to keep warming under 3 degrees, a figure that current trends have us on track to see by 2080. Those at risk include the Yellow-throated Warbler, the Scarlet Tanager and the American Robin.

None of us want a future without these birds signaling spring or bringing brilliant flashes of color to our backyards. The good news is we do have enough of an early warning to head off the worst case scenarios, if we can limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and keep warming to 1.5 degrees over pre-industrial levels. To do so, one of the most important things we can do is to support and invest in clean, renewable energy.

Here in Pennsylvania our clean energy economy currently employs over 90,000 people and that number will continue to rise as the sector grows. The state released a climate action plan in 2018, and we must let elected officials know we are serious about a healthy future and expect that plan to be implemented.

We hope you will join us here at Bucks County Audubon to fight for the healthy environment that our birds, residents, wildlife and economy rely on. Keep an eye on our blog to learn more about the findings from Survival by Degrees and how climate change will affect us, and our birds, here in Bucks County. To stay in the loop on how you can help, sign up here for our email advocacy alerts.

-Written by Board Member and Advocacy Committee Chair, Alison Levine


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