Two-Thirds of America’s Birds Threatened With Extinction if Global Warming Continues

A sage thrasher is one of America’s bird species vulnerable to climate change. (Photo: Mick Thompson / National Audubon Society)

About two-thirds of America’s birds will be threatened with extinction if global warming rises by 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to a report released Thursday from the National Audubon Society, a bird-focused conservation group.

“A lot of people paid attention to last month’s report that North America has lost nearly a third of its birds,” said David Yarnold, CEO and president of Audubon. “This new data pivots forward and imagines an even more frightening future. It’s a bird emergency.”

About 389 out of 604 species are at risk of extinction from climate change. A few of the imperiled species include state birds such as Minnesota’s common loon, New Jersey’s goldfinch and California’s quail.

To prepare the report – “Survival by Degrees: Bird Species on the Brink” – Audubon scientists studied 604 North American bird species using 140 million bird records, including observational data from bird lovers and field biologists across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

In addition to warming temperatures, the scientists also looked at climate-related impacts on birds across the lower 48 states, including sea-level rise, Great Lakes’ water-level changes, urbanization, cropland expansion, droughts, extreme spring heat, fire weather and heavy rain.

“Birds are important indicator species because if an ecosystem is broken for birds, it is or soon will be for people, too,” said Brooke Bateman, Audubon’s senior climate scientist.

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 because of 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.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Doyle Rice