What are the Birds Telling Us About Global Warming?

Birds & Climate Change Map
The Associated Press
As the temperature across the U.S.has gotten warmer from 1966 to 2005, many bird species are spending their winters farther north.

Like canaries in a coal mine, birds are telling us that global warming is happening here and now. A recent report released by Audubon, Birds and Climate Change: Ecological Disruption in Motion, analyzes the past forty years of Christmas Bird Count data to see how the ranges of birds have shifted during that time. Audubon's scientists found that a majority of bird species in the United States have shifted their ranges north, and that this shift northward was strongly correlated with increasing winter temperatures. 

While polar bears have grabbed the spotlight on global warming, and predictions of impacts may seem decades in the future, the Birds and Climate report sounds a warning that the effects of global warming are being felt now. It is once again the birds in our backyards that are signally a clarion call to take action. If you would like to hear Dr. Greg Butcher, Audubon's Director of Bird Conservation and the co-author of the report, describe his findings, you can watch and listen to his webcast at www.birdsandclimate.org. The Webcast was aired live on February 20, 2009.

It took citizen science to gather the information that gives us this wake up call. It will take citizen action to solve the problem of global warming. Scientists tell us that we need to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming. In order to achieve these reductions, we need our government to put in place strong policies to address global warming, including a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas pollutants. Our state and federal agencies also need to incorporate planning that will help birds and wildlife adapt to global warming. To send a message to Congress urging them to pass strong climate legislation and put in place policies that will help birds and wildlife adapt, please sign Audubon's petition at www.birdsandclimate.org.