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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

External community engagement process launched to help implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title

Route announced for the Great Regional Air Hug of 2020

Aircraft will be departing from the Vanderhoof Municipal Airport at 12 p.m. on Aug. 15

“Let’s break the silence because we can”

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s awareness walk held Saturday in Fort St. James

Brucejack mine fatality identified

Patrick Critch was from Newfoundland

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read