Skip to content

Climate Change Already Dramatically Altering North American Bird Migration

2014/10/29

Over the past two decades, the resident communities of birds that attend eastern North America’s backyard bird feeders in winter have quietly been remade, most likely as a result of a warming climate.

pine grosbeaks around a northern Ontario bird feeder

pine grosbeaks around a northern Ontario bird feeder

Writing this week in the journal Global Change Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine Princé document that once rare wintering bird species are now commonplace in the American Northeast.

Using more than two decades of data on 38 species of birds gathered by thousands of “citizen scientists” through the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, the Wisconsin researchers show that birds typically found in more southerly regions are gradually pushing north, restructuring the communities of birds that spend their winters in northern latitudes.

To the causal observer of backyard birds, the list of species becoming more common includes the readily familiar: cardinals, chipping sparrows and Carolina wrens. These birds and other warm-adapted species, according to Princé and Zuckerberg, have greatly expanded their wintering range in a warmer world, a change that may have untold consequences for North American ecosystems.

“Fifty years ago, cardinals were rare in the northeastern United States. Carolina wrens even more so,” explains Zuckerberg, a UW-Madison assistant professor of forest and wildlife ecology.

An estimated 53 million Americans maintain feeding stations near their homes, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, suggesting that increases in some species may be attributable to more readily available sources of food. However, that figure has remained constant, reflecting only a slight decline since 1991, indicating that environmental factors beyond the availability of food sources are at play.

The Wisconsin researchers measured the changes over time in the abundance of 38 bird species at feeders in eastern North America, specifically looking at the influence of changes in winter minimum temperature over a 22-year period on the flocks of birds that gather at backyard feeding stations.

“We conclude that a shifting winter climate has provided an opportunity for smaller, southerly distributed species to colonize new regions and promote the formation of unique winter bird assemblages throughout eastern North America,” Princé and Zuckerberg write in their Global Change Biology report.

“People will likely start seeing new species in their backyards,” says Princé, a UW-Madison postdoctoral fellow. “There can also be subtle changes in species abundance.”

The changes in the mix of overwintering bird species is occurring against a backdrop of milder winters with less snow, more variable and intense precipitation events, and a shorter snow season, overall. Climate models predict even warmer temperatures occurring over the next 100 years, with seasonal climate effects being the most pronounced in northern regions of the world.

“We’ve been able to document in past studies that species are shifting in response to climate change,” Zuckerberg says. “This study documents changes in the (winter bird) community structure. If you have a species coming into a new area, it can modify the composition of the community.”

In any ecosystem, Zuckerberg notes, removing or introducing even a single species can have a cascade of ecological consequences, many of them unknown.

“These backyard birds are the canaries in the coal mine,” Zuckerberg says. “Birds have always been very good indicators of environmental change. Whenever you have a reshuffling of a community of species, you have less of a sense of what change is going to be.”

Princé notes that other environmental changes, such as the pervasive human impact on landscape, for example, may also be exerting an influence on the observed changes in the composition of birds attending winter feeding stations in eastern North America.

“Climate change should not be viewed as the sole driver of changes in winter bird communities, but this signal is a pretty strong one for climate change,” she explains. “The changes we document are so broad in scope that anything that is occurring at a local level is swamped out by the scale of this analysis.”

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

An elegant solution to the climate crisis

2014/10/28

It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust. From TEDx Orange Coast, venture capitalist and scientist Dan Miller shares his passion for working for action on the climate crisis, why we haven’t yet acted, and the simple and elegant solution that would turn the crisis around.

“While focusing on a simple solution to help fix climate change, he alerts us on our responsibilities as engaged citizens to be involved and take urgent actions towards the environment, our planet, and our society.”

Carbon Fee Prosperity

2014/10/27

CCL Dispatch header*

Are you ready for carbon fee prosperity?  Then join us at our 3 day conference and lobbying days in Canada’s Capital City, Ottawa, November 22-24. The conference line-up is phenomenal with too many impeccable speakers to highlight just one person. DEADLINES:  Hotel accommodations  at the Courtyard Marriott in the Byward Market are suggested, although the deadline for the conference room rate has passed. To be assured a lobbying schedule, register by November 7. All details can be found on the registration page.

carbon fee prosperity*

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CCL IN CANADA:  For four years now we have been quietly building the political will for carbon fee and dividend in Canada in true partnership with CCL in the USA. Our national grassroots organization has some of the most dedicated volunteers on the planet. We are that small group of citizens Margaret Mead famously spoke about. Please check out our brief timeline about the Canadian Division of CCL here.

*

THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD – DID WIN! CCL’s carbon fee and dividend proposal won the “Popular Choice” category for how to implement a price on carbon in the U.S. in MIT’s Climate CoLab contest. CCL will now have the opportunity to present at Climate CoLab’s conference on November 6-7 and engage with experts and attendees to explore how the proposals can effectively move forward. Thank you to everyone who voted and helped us harness the power of social media.

like us on Facebook

PLEASE HELP US HARNESS THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA AGAIN: 19 million Canadians have a Facebook account. Thus, our presence in Facebook is a metric we should not ignore. We have more than doubled our Facebook friend likes in 2014 (1500) compared to 2013  (700). We know firsthand that MPs notice Facebook presence. Thus, just minutes of your time will help us when we are in Ottawa. Instructions are here on how to invite your friends to like our Facebook page.

Canada's CCL emissions

*THIS IS WHY WE MUST GO TO OTTAWA: On October 7, 2014, Canada’s Environment Commissioner, Julie Gelfand, expressed her disappointment that Canada is only 7% of the way to meeting our Copenhagen objectives. Our oil and gas sector has the fasting rising emissions. The Harper government has not fullfilled its 2008 promise of regulation of GHG emissions in the oil and gas sector and plans to regulate emissions have been kept secret.  Read our October 9, 2014 media release.

Take Time To Renew Your Spirit

2014/10/26

mother teresa quote start with one nearest

Take Time To Renew Your Spirit

2014/10/19

brokenness quote

Who’s Gonna Stand Up?

2014/10/14

Neil Young has just written the anthem for the climate movement. The chorus is:

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?

Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?

Who’s gonna stand up and take on the big machine?

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth.

This all starts with you and me.

*

Complete lyrics:

Protect the wild, tomorrow’s child
Protect the land from the greed of man
Take down the dams, stand up to oil
Protect the plants, and renew the soil

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
This all starts with you and me

Damn the dams, save the rivers
Starve the takers and feed the givers
Build a dream, save the world
We’re the people know as earth

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
This all starts with you and me

Ban fossil fuel, draw the line
Before we build, one more pipeline
Ban fracking now, save the waters
And build a life, for our sons and daughters

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
This all starts with you and me

Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up

The song is from Young’s new album, Storytone. Click here to preorder it.

Click here to view a version of the song with a different video.

 

Take Time To Renew Your Spirit

2014/10/12
tags:

Black Elk