Some scientists have estimated that 104 bird species are on the verge of extinction. Climate change is largely to blame, but it is not the only reason. They admit they don’t know all the reasons! Still, some scientists believe 75% of U.S. birds are vulnerable to habitat loss from climate change. As the climate warms, which raises sea levels, the geographical range at which a given species can survive is reduced, and diseases and natural disasters can wipe them out if they are more concentrated in one area.
Bottom line: We don’t like to lose species! Here’s why from Earth.org.
“On January 4, George, the reclusive Hawaiian snail and the last of his kind, became the first known species to go extinct in 2019. Does the extinction of George’s species really matter? It certainly does. Aside from the ethical implications of having exterminated a species irreversibly, the extinction of one species can affect the entire ecosystem, with knock-on effects that ripple through the fabric of natural ecosystems.”
What did “George” eat? Who or what ate “George”? It’s not how big or small a single species is. It’s what part they play in the ecosystem, as the Earth.org quote indicates. The article cited “invasive species” and “climate change” as the factors leading to George’s extinction.
What Does Climate Change Do to Birds’ Survival?
The Audubon Society’s author Scott Weidensaul is an ornithologist who has tracked migrating birds such as owls, hawks, and songbirds across the globe for decades. His concern is that the timing of the seasons (which in turn triggers when the birds migrate) has changed as the world warms. He says spring is coming earlier in the Northern Hemisphere, tree leaves appear sooner, and caterpillars and insects normally fed to baby birds are out of sync with the old patterns.
It’s a problem. While some bird species are slowly adapting, others are not so resilient and flexible. Bottom line: they are struggling, and we are losing species. Weidensaul’s article explains that scientists are “…finding that climate change can decouple globe-spanning ecological relationships.” He calls it a “phenological mismatch,” or seasonal mismatch that happens when, for instance, insects emerge at the wrong time for the migrating birds that arrive too early. The American Bird Conservancy says North American bird populations have dropped nearly 30% since 1970. (That’s about 3 billion birds, and their website is 3billionbirds.org.)
What’s At Risk?
We are losing our biodiversity. The Carbon Almanac, page 135, indicates that climate change threatens almost 20 percent of all at-risk and endangered species. Let’s look at some extinct or near-extinct birds. According to the American Bird Conservancy,
“Fifteen bird species have gone extinct in the Americas and U.S. Pacific Territories since 1968, most in Hawai’i. These species are the Aguijan Reed-warbler, Alagoas Foliage-gleaner, Atitlan Grebe, Bishop’s Oo, Bridled White-eye, Colombian Grebe, Cryptic Treehunter, Guam Flycatcher, Guam Reed-warbler, Kamao, Kauai Akialoa, Kauai Oo, Least Vermilion Flycatcher, Pagan Reed-warbler, and Po’ouli. Five more bird species have been declared extinct in the wild but survive in captivity: the Alagoas Curassow, Guam Kingfisher, ʻAlalā (Hawaiian Crow), Socorro Dove, and Spix’s Macaw. (Reintroduction efforts are underway for some of these species.)”
Why Be Concerned?
We know our lifeforms on Earth have taken billions of years to become happily co-dependent with other species. When one species declines the age-old co-dependencies upon which survival has been built, start to break down. The delicate balances between and among ecosystems destabilize. Like with dominoes, a small upset in one area can topple the entire carefully crafted design.
Birds Are Important!
Every species of every bird, big or small, contributes to the survival of every other one of their ecosystems and ours. Ocean warming, rising global temperatures, deforestation, urbanization, and increased agricultural land, plus other human “developments,” threaten all lifeforms, including animals, plants, viruses, microbes, and fungi. While human beings are part of the cause of the increasingly fragile ecosystems, we are also the solution.
What We Can Do
We can choose to save the birds. It’s up to us and it’s not too late! You can visit the websites linked in this article and donate your time or money.
Here are some other ideas: Learn more. Buy less (except it’s okay to buy The Carbon Almanac). Connect with us here. Switch your browser to Ecosia to make a difference! For each 45 searches, the not-for-profit B corporation, Ecosia, plants a tree. Your tree could be a home for another bird. Why not?