The impacts of climate change on birds
Recently, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report predicting global impacts due to climate change. These include increased droughts, extreme storms, and fires; numerous wildfire species extinctions; and a 2-foot or more rise in sea levels over the next 100 years. All of these phenomena can negatively impact birds, eliminating bird habitat and green corridors; reducing water and food sources; and disrupting the timing of breeding and migration.
In addition, a recent study publish by the Audubon Society shared that almost half the bird species found in North America--including song birds, raptors, waterbirds, hummingbirds, gulls, and ducks--are under threat as climate change reduces their ranges by more than half by 2050.
Our Bay Area birds will be among those most severely hit. Brown Pelicans, which were near extinction in the 1970s from DDT poisoning, are under threat as climate change affects ocean conditions in their Mexican summer nesting grounds. Hotter and drier conditions locally are reducing the abundance of prey (such as rodents) that Golden Eagles depend on, and Bald Eagles are on a trajectory to lose almost 75 percent of their breeding range.
American Avocets, Yellow-billed Magpies, Black Oystercatchers, Marbled Godwits, American Kestrels, Swainson's Hawks, Northern Harriers, Snowy Plovers, Burrowing Owls, Snowy Egrets, and Willets are also at risk, and endangered species such as Least Terns and Ridgeway's Rails are particularly imperiled. In addition, reductions in these and other bird species will have wide-ranging effects on entire ecosystems as their roles as insect eaters, pollinators, and seed dispensers are impacted.
We are working with our partners to mitigate these impacts in the Bay Area. We are restoring Burrowing Owl, Snowy Plover, and tidal marsh habitat and sharing what we've learned with other groups who are restoring habitat in other regions. We collect data on Bay Area bird populations and share it with resource managers so they can make decisions on how to allocate support and space that conserve the most vulnerable species. We collaborate with partners on region-wide conservation efforts such as the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. And we provide community science and environmental education experiences that help the public care about birds and better understand their ecosystems and the threats they face.