Climate change threatens hundreds of North American bird species with extinction, study says

When a study found that the US and Canada has lost nearly three billion birds since the 1970's, Audubon scientists took the latest climate models and looked into the future of over 600 species. CNN's Bill Weir reports.

Posted: Oct 10, 2019 8:45 AM
Updated: Oct 10, 2019 2:15 PM


Nearly two-thirds of North American birds studied will go extinct if global warming hits 3 degrees Celsius (5.4ËšF), a new report from the National Audubon Society finds.

Orioles, eagles, grouse and gulls are among 389 types of bird -- 64% of 604 species assessed on this continent -- that are highly or moderately vulnerable to climate change, the study says.

The stark warning follows research published last month that showed the US and Canada had lost 2.9 billion birds in about the last 50 years.

The existential threat to birds also impacts humanity. As canaries warned coalminers of invisible death in the industrial era, now birds of every shape and size can be life-or-death alerts in the age of global warming.

But if humanity can somehow escape the proverbial coal mine in time and hold warming to the Paris Accord target of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7ËšF), 76% of the most vulnerable species should survive, the Audubon study states.

'Our findings in this report are the fifth alarm in a five-alarm fire,' says David O'Neill, Audubon's Chief Conservation Officer, in the study called Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink.

He called for immediate action to slow the warming of the planet to save birds and much more.

Interactive: See how our planet has changed over time

'It's a combination of changes in temperature, precipitation and vegetation,' says Brooke Bateman, Audubon's Senior Climate Scientist. 'And birds are going to have to move and shift to keep up with these changes. And then on top of the range shifts, we also have the pressure of changes in sea level rise, urbanization, extreme weather events that are going to affect these species no matter where they go.'

Formed in 1905, when the demand for feathered hats nearly drove Florida's wading birds to extinction, the National Audubon Society is one of the oldest conservation groups in the world. And thanks to the obsessive record-keeping of devout birders, Audubon scientists were able to draw from a database of 140 million records for its study of birds in Mexico, the US and Canada.

Using latest climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they examined the habitats of 604 North American species. Given projected increases in drought, heat, fire, rain and other factors, they found that 389 of the species studied would likely not survive in a world 3 degrees hotter.

Bateman was in second grade when she first heard the haunting call of the common loon on a lake in Wisconsin. That was her 'spark bird' that awakened her to a 'wonderful, wondrous world of birds.'

'Last year I brought my 5-year-old daughter, and she got to hear the loon for the first time. And it's like magic, you see it on their face.'

But as a vivid example of what science calls 'shifting baseline syndrome,' her daughter's daughter may never have the same experience.

'(The loon's) range is going to completely shift out of the US with climate change,' Bateman says. 'So you'll no longer be able to go to that same place, and hear that bird call anymore.'

And more alarming than the loss of songs and flashes of color at the backyard feeder is what birds like the American robin tell us about the speed of the changes.

'Robins are actually overwintering in a lot of places more frequently than they used to and not leaving at all,' Bateman says.

And at the risk of wearing out the analogy, she says every time you see a robin in December, think about that canary in the coal mine.

'Birds are indicators. Birds tell us. They're the ones that are telling us what's going on in the environment. And so, we say at Audubon that the birds are telling us it's time to act.'

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 515504

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CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34999558
DeSoto33360432
Hinds32743643
Jackson24906392
Rankin22565405
Lee16455245
Madison14954283
Jones14158248
Forrest13834260
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Clay312978
Clarke301695
Calhoun286850
Holmes272889
Smith270552
Yalobusha244947
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220242
Perry214556
Amite210357
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175441
Jefferson Davis174343
Tunica163539
Benton153139
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
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Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97134
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 847659

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CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1163752005
Mobile743371381
Madison53434738
Shelby38413371
Baldwin38171589
Tuscaloosa36131643
Montgomery34571782
Lee25664264
Calhoun22622519
Morgan22527408
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Houston17769426
St. Clair16946359
Limestone16192220
Cullman16140305
Elmore15948295
Lauderdale15055307
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DeKalb13061271
Walker12138380
Blount10765193
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Jackson10204195
Coffee9435192
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Dale9038192
Tallapoosa7283202
Russell710165
Chilton7078170
Covington6967197
Escambia6962144
Franklin6364108
Chambers5795142
Marion5435130
Dallas5302210
Pike5128109
Clarke485686
Lawrence4845130
Winston4785110
Geneva4650136
Bibb435495
Barbour370180
Butler3444101
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Monroe338366
Randolph337767
Pickens334790
Fayette331485
Henry321066
Cherokee319964
Hale318889
Crenshaw261678
Washington256852
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Lamar253555
Clay252069
Macon245767
Conecuh193562
Coosa185847
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Perry141840
Sumter139741
Greene130345
Choctaw94328
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