Audubon Birds and Climate Change Report

This report from the National Audubon Society presents the results of a seven year scientific study predicting the potential impact of climate change on 588 North American bird species. Based on four decades of bird census data, this is the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, and according to Audubon, “it’s the closest thing we have to a field guide to the future of North American birds.”

Audubon scientists used decades of citizen-scientist observations from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Survey to define the “climatic suitability” for each bird species - the range of temperatures, precipitation, and seasonal changes each species needs to survive. Then, using internationally recognized greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, they mapped where each bird’s ideal climatic range may be found in the future as the climate changes. These maps serve as a guide to how each bird’s current range could expand, contract, or shift across three future time periods (2020, 2050, and 2080), predicting ranges down to a 100-square-kilometer level.

On the Audubon Birds and Climate Report extensive website, the “Browse by Species” pages provide in motion maps for range shifts from 2000 to 2080, a photo gallery, summarized climate effects, and “cool facts” for every species. The site also provides access to summarized results, lots of visual data, and “Find a Bird Near You” page with interactive maps for viewing climate impacts by geographic range. 

The Audubon study found that:

  • 314 species of North American birds - nearly half of all species - could be severely affected by global warming in the coming years at the current pace of warming. The science shows that these birds could lose half or more of their livable ranges by the year 2080 if nothing is done to stop global warming.
  • Many of those severely threatened are birds like the Rufous Hummingbird or the Baltimore Oriole that we see every day, or perhaps love and cherish.
  • Some, like the Trumpeter Swan, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and American Avocet, could lose more than 99 percent of their livable range - which puts them at extreme risk for extinction.
  • The science also pinpoints potential “climate strongholds,” key places that will continue to support bird life in the coming decades and which merit urgent protection.

Publication Date: September 8, 2014

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