In 2014, the National Audubon Society released a groundbreaking report about birds and climate change. The conclusion? Half — yes, half — of North American birds are seriously threatened.
The problem is that birds’ ranges are shrinking and shifting due to changing weather patterns. Shrinking ranges are an obvious threat. But even a shift can prove hazardous, introducing birds to new predators and/or eliminating typical food sources.
Imagine Baltimore Orioles no longer breeding in Maryland. Or the haunting call of the Common Loon just a memory in Minnesota. By 2080, nine states and the District of Columbia may be missing their official birds.
Also by 2080, 314 bird species in North America could be at risk of extinction. That’s pretty dramatic given that only nine bird species have gone extinct over the last four centuries.
What We Can Do
Fortunately, there’s lots that we can do to help our feathered friends weather climate change. For example, our new citizen science program, Climate Watch, uses real-world, on-the-ground surveys to determine how birds are handling gradual shifts in temperature and precipitation.
Twice each year, volunteers across the country collect data that will allow us to compare what’s really happening with the models’ predictions. This data has the potential to help birds everywhere it’s collected — because only by seeing where the birds are actually going can we accurately predict which locations are most critical for conservation and native plant restoration.
Love Bluebirds? C’mon!
And here’s the best thing about Climate Watch: anyone can do it. Unlike most bird surveys, which require you to identify all kinds of birds, Climate Watch requires you to recognize just one species, the Eastern Bluebird — a bright and beautiful creature anyone can spot.
Audubon chose bluebirds in part because of how our models suggest their ranges will change, and in part because just about everyone loves them. How many people are captivated by watching a bluebird visit their bird feeder, or nest in their yard? They’re charismatic, easy to identify, and just plain awesome!
So if you’re concerned about climate change and love bluebirds, please come out and join us between January 15th and February 15th (and again from mid-May to mid-June). Bring your friends and neighbors. Bring your teenager’s scout troop. We’d like to get coverage all across South Carolina, and to do that we need a LOT of volunteers.
Here more on the methods of Climate Watch, here’s where to sign up, and there’s a stack of other resources at the bottom of this page. If you have any questions, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’d be so happy to get you involved!