A flock of birds fly over sandhill cranes in a pond near Newark, Neb., Thursday, March 15, 2018. An extensive new report from the Audubon Society says climate change threatens extinction for two-thirds of bird species across North America — and Canada will be especially hard hit. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Nati Harnik

Climate change threatens extinction for most birds, especially in Canada: report

All 16 Arctic species would be at high risk, including iconic birds such as the snowy owl

Climate change threatens extinction for two-thirds of bird species across North America, including almost all of those filling the forests and tundra of northern Canada, says an extensive report.

“More than we thought are vulnerable,” said Jeff Wells of the Audubon Society, which crunched 140 million records from 70 data sources on 604 different species for the study released Thursday.

“It’s yet another of these wake-up calls.”

The study mapped information onto projections of how climate change will alter the habitats on which birds depend. If global average temperatures go up by three degrees — which is what is expected under the measures of the Paris climate agreement — the results are dire.

Audubon concludes that 389 bird species, or 64 per cent, would be at least moderately threatened with extinction by 2100.

The news for Canada is much worse.

All 16 Arctic species would be at high risk, including iconic birds such as the snowy owl and the Arctic tern. So would nearly all — 98 per cent — of the species that perch in the boreal forest, which stretches across the northern reaches of almost every Canadian province. They would include everything from tiny songbirds to big raptors.

Some birds would be able to adapt by following their preferred habitat north as the continent warms. Crows and magpies are already appearing in northern latitudes where before they were rarely seen.

The report says some places could even see an increase of bird species, although at lower numbers. More species could end up breeding in the tundra, and much of the rest of Canada could see an increased variety of birds fleeing southern habitats that had become too warm.

Northern birds would have nowhere left to go, said Wells.

“There’s not that much space for them to move into. There’s also the issue of whether the kinds of forest and wetland habitat they prefer can even track northward.”

The threats described by the Audubon Society may already be taking effect. Two recent studies have found numbers for most bird species are dramatically dropping. One report concluded overall numbers have dropped by three billion since 1970 — about a 30 per cent drop.

But the threats are not inevitable, says the most-recent study.

Models show that if governments were able to enact measures to keep warming at 1.5 degrees, the number of species threatened with extinction would drop to just under half. And the number of species in the highly threatened category would fall by three-quarters.

Also important will be conservation measures such as habitat restoration and landscape conservation over large areas.

“Protecting large areas of northern habitat is going to be part of the most crucial things we can do to maintain large, resilient populations of birds and other wildlife,” Wells said.

Scientists say that, in addition to eating bugs and pollinating plants, birds are an important indicator species.

“Birds are living off the same Earth that we are,” Wells said. “If the birds are being impacted this way, the humans are going to be impacted in the same way.”

VIDEO: Climate demonstrators shut down Canadian bridges as part of global action

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Lacombe ranked 5th on 20 Best Places to Live list

Moneyinc.com included Lacombe, Camrose and Red Deer on the list

Former NHLer Clint Malarchuk shares mental health journey in Lacombe

Former goalie and current mental health advocate supports Schizophrenia Society of Alberta

Lacombe Composite High School students organize climate change walk-out

Walk-out a show of solidarity with International Climate Activist Greta Thunberg

Yellow Door Dance donation supports purchase of a grand piano for the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre

Grand piano to be able to accommodate a broader range of concerts and performances

Lacombe County, Village of Clive sign Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework

Municipalities that share a common boundary must create an Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework

WATCH: 6th Bill’s Trail Run welcomes over 450 runners

Run advocates for the use and upkeep of Lacombe’s trails

Google searches for ‘how to vote’ surge on Election Day

Interest spikes despite social media campaign by Elections Canada

Man kidnapped while sitting in vehicle at southern Alberta McDonald’s: police

Man brandishing machete approached driver’s vehicle just before midnight on Sunday

Police charge man, woman shot by officers during Calgary military parade

Officer fired three shots when car allegedly drove on sidewalk towards two officers

Remote-controlled vehicle finds missing boater on bottom of Alberta lake

The 45-year-old man from Calgary was last seen by his wife Oct. 5

Crude-by-rail shipments fell to 310,000 bpd in August, energy regulator says

This, despite Imperial Oil CEO threatening to throttle back the company’s rail movements

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

Greta Thunberg meets with First Nations chief in Fort McMurray

Thunberg has turned her protest against climate change into a global movement

Most Read