Climate

New Audubon Science: Two-Thirds of North American Birds at Risk of Extinction Due to Climate Change

Enter your zip code into Audubon’s Birds and Climate Visualizer and it will show you how climate change will impact your birds and your community and includes ways you can help.

NEW YORK (October 10, 2019) – Today, the National Audubon Society announced a groundbreaking climate report, Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink. “Audubon’s new report emphasizes that climate change is local, it is personal, and it will require visionary and fast-moving action to achieve a more favorable future for birds and people. If you care about birds and nature, you’ll feel deeply saddened by what you read. There is great hope, but it’s imperative that we limit global temperature increases,” said Ana Paula Tavares, executive director of Audubon New York.

“We urge you to become a climate champion. Demand action at the state and federal levels. Volunteer. Vote. It isn’t too late, but it’s imperative that we limit global temperature increases.”

Audubon scientists studied 604 North American bird species using 140 million bird records, including observational data from bird lovers and field biologists across the country. The report finds that two-thirds of the birds studied are threatened with extinction from climate change, but keeping global temperatures down will help up to 76 percent of them.

Audubon’s report is based on the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report models for 1.5, 2.0 and 3.0 degrees C of global warming. At the highest warming scenario of 3.0 C, 305 bird species face three or more climate-related impacts.

In New York specifically, species that are most threatened by a combination of climate change and climate-related threats under 3.0 degrees C of warming include the Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush, American Woodcock, and Saltmarsh Sparrow. 116 are climate-vulnerable in summer under this scenario.

Audubon’s zip code-based tool, the Birds and Climate Visualizer, helps users understand the impacts to birds where they live, making climate change even more local, immediate and, for tens of millions of bird fans, deeply personal. 

“Birds act as indicators that can tell us a lot about the health of an ecosystem, both when things are going well and when they aren’t, and ecosystem health has real implications for people—ranging from economic to personal,” said Jillian Liner, Audubon New York director of conservation. “I have wonderful memories of hiking with my family in the high peaks of the Adirondacks to survey for Bicknell’s Thrush. I can’t imagine a time when they may no longer be there, but that’s what we’re facing if trends continue.”

Audubon New York urges our lawmakers to:

  • Support the implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).
  • Develop legislation and policies that support our coastal communities, which will be the first to feel the impacts of climate change.
  • Support the development of responsibly-sited and operated renewable and clean energy (wind and solar) in our communities. At the same time, we must support upgrades and expansions to our electrical transmission infrastructure to reduce the amount of carbon released in to the atmosphere.
     

On the ground, we must:

  • Restore and manage thousands of acres of tidal marshes to help protect our communities in the face of sea level rise and more powerful storms.
  • Grow and manage millions more acres of diverse, healthy woodlands. Our northeast forests must be more resilient to the stressors of climate change so they can provide essential ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, flood control, and watershed protection. 
     

Enter your zip code into Audubon’s Birds and Climate Visualizer to see how climate change will impact your birds, your community, and the ways you can help.

Last month, Science published a study by a joint team of conservation biologists describing a grim picture: a steady decline of nearly three billion North American birds since 1970, primarily as a result of human activities. Climate change will further exacerbate the challenges birds are already facing from human activity.  

“It’s a bird emergency. A lot of people paid attention to last month’s report that North America has lost nearly a third of its birds. This new data pivots forward and imagines an even more frightening future. And, you can use a first-of-its kind web tool to find threatened birds in your zip code, as well as a list of things everyone can do,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society.

“This new report doubles down on what Audubon’s 2014 Birds and Climate Change Report confirmed: climate change is the number one threat to birds and the habitats they rely on. Migrating birds are losing their critical stop-over habitats and resident breeding birds are losing their nesting habitat. They are in imminent danger of disappearing. The science is clear – we need to take action now,” said John Loz, president of Southern Adirondack Audubon Society.

In 2014, Audubon published its first Birds and Climate Change Report. The study showed that more than half of the bird species in North America could lose at least half of their current ranges by 2080 due to rising temperatures. Audubon’s new findings reflect an expanded and more precise data set, and indicate the dire situation for birds and the places they need will continue.

Hear from more of our statewide Audubon Chapter leaders:

Susan O’Handley, co-president of Delaware Otsego Audubon Society: "In addition to being indicators for environmental health, birds matter because they allow people all over the world to enjoy and appreciate nature. Caring about birds often leads to caring about their habitats and creates a stewardship ethic to protect our natural resources. Birds connect communities."

Kathryn Heintz, executive director of New York City Audubon: “This climate report calls us to action more urgently than ever. The best buffer for birds against an unpredictably altering landscape is maintaining the precious green spaces that we have. Some 350 bird species rely on New York City's mosaic of salt marshes, harbor islands, sandy beaches, freshwater wetlands, upland forests, and grasslands. Beyond making our infrastructure bird-friendly and resilient, we must do everything in our power to protect the scope and diversity of foraging and nesting habitats across the city's natural areas--a vital system of parks, waterways, and open lands that spans over 29,000 acres. It is the critical patchwork oasis that birds need to navigate the concrete jungle.  The greater the diversity of habitat, the better the chance the birds will find what they need to adapt.”

Melissa Fratello, executive director of Buffalo Audubon Society: "Situated along a major migratory route for songbirds and waterfowl, Buffalo Audubon and the Western New York birding community are already noticing changes in historic patterns, with warblers arriving in unprecedented numbers, rare sightings of birds far off course due to extreme weather events, and changes in the timing of spring and fall migrations. The Wood Duck, one of many species severely threatened by climate change in New York, is our mascot here at Buffalo Audubon, and a strikingly beautiful bird to view along our waterways. Birds are indicators of what's to come, and we share their destiny. The difference is, we're equipped to determine what that destiny will be, and I hope we take action before it’s too late." 

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About Audubon New York
Audubon New York, the state program of the National Audubon Society, protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon New York’s 83,000 members, nature centers and sanctuaries, chapters, and partners have an unparalleled wingspan. Together, we are informing, inspiring and uniting diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.ny.audubon.org.

Media Contact:

Sharon Bruce | sbruce@audubon.org
Elizabeth Burns | eburns@audubon.org