Birds respond to climate change by shifting their range, but our climate is changing at an unprecedented rate — more than 20 times faster than any period over the past 2 million years, according to the Audubon Society.
As the temperature rises, each bird species’ natural range shifts, with some range lost, some gained and some remaining stable. The degree to which a particular species loses its native range varies based on how much global temperatures rise. For some species, the loss of range may be devastating or even catastrophic, forcing species to the brink of extinction, the Audubon Society reports.
Take, for example, the great gray owl, which lives mainly in the forests of Canada, Alaska and, to a lesser extent, small pockets in the northwestern United States. As temperatures rise, the owls’ range shrinks. If Earth’s temperature were to rise another 1.5 degrees C, it would lose 59 percent of its current summer range, according to the study. If the temperature were to rise 3 degrees C, nearly all of its current summer range — 97 percent to be exact — would be rendered unlivable for the owls.
The example of the great gray owl may be extreme, but more than half of the bird species in North America — 389 of the 604 bird species that live on our continent — are vulnerable to extinction as a result of climate change. Here’s a look at some of the birds in Will County that are highly vulnerable and how their range would be affected as Earth’s temperature rises.
In addition to losing their natural range, climate change brings other dangers as well. As Earth gets warmer, many more birds will be affected by intensifying and more severe weather events, the Audubon Society reports. Among these weather threats are more wildfires, droughts, heat waves, heavy rains and floods, and false springs. Global temperature increases will also cause sea levels to rise, consuming land along the coasts. And climate change will also cause more land to be both urbanized and converted to agricultural use, taking over vital bird habitats.
Other major threats