Scrambling Species

Climate Change Favors Some Birds over Others




Decades of data show that climate change is manipulating the way avian species move across continents. For instance, the orchard oriole is losing prime habitat in the South, but gaining more up north. Thousands of species worldwide face the same dilemma. Specific birds need a particular habitat, such as open spaces or groves of trees, and some of their traditionally preferred spots are becoming unlivable.

England’s Durham University ecologist Phillip Stephens, along with researchers from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the U.S. Geological Survey, have compiled nearly half a century’s worth of occurrence data from thousands of citizen scientists. Birders submitted their observations to the Pan-European Common Birds Monitoring Scheme and the North American Breeding Bird Survey for 145 terrestrial bird species native to Europe and 380 species native to the United States.

“We used that information to generate a prior expectation for whether the species would’ve been advantaged or disadvantaged by climate change,” says Stephens. The predictions were compared with actual bird abundance data from 1980 through 2010, and the populations that were expected to lose suitable habitat declined, while those expected to find their habitats improve increased. He states, “Recent climate change has already favored one set of species over another.”


Read the report at ClimateChange.Birdlife.org.

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