STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Climate change threatens hundreds of North American bird species with extinction, study says

When a study found that the US and Canada has lost nearly three billion birds since the 1970's, Audubon scientists took the latest climate models and looked into the future of over 600 species. CNN's Bill Weir reports.

Posted: Oct 10, 2019 9:45 AM
Updated: Oct 10, 2019 3:15 PM


Nearly two-thirds of North American birds studied will go extinct if global warming hits 3 degrees Celsius (5.4ËšF), a new report from the National Audubon Society finds.

Orioles, eagles, grouse and gulls are among 389 types of bird -- 64% of 604 species assessed on this continent -- that are highly or moderately vulnerable to climate change, the study says.

The stark warning follows research published last month that showed the US and Canada had lost 2.9 billion birds in about the last 50 years.

The existential threat to birds also impacts humanity. As canaries warned coalminers of invisible death in the industrial era, now birds of every shape and size can be life-or-death alerts in the age of global warming.

But if humanity can somehow escape the proverbial coal mine in time and hold warming to the Paris Accord target of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7ËšF), 76% of the most vulnerable species should survive, the Audubon study states.

'Our findings in this report are the fifth alarm in a five-alarm fire,' says David O'Neill, Audubon's Chief Conservation Officer, in the study called Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink.

He called for immediate action to slow the warming of the planet to save birds and much more.

Interactive: See how our planet has changed over time

'It's a combination of changes in temperature, precipitation and vegetation,' says Brooke Bateman, Audubon's Senior Climate Scientist. 'And birds are going to have to move and shift to keep up with these changes. And then on top of the range shifts, we also have the pressure of changes in sea level rise, urbanization, extreme weather events that are going to affect these species no matter where they go.'

Formed in 1905, when the demand for feathered hats nearly drove Florida's wading birds to extinction, the National Audubon Society is one of the oldest conservation groups in the world. And thanks to the obsessive record-keeping of devout birders, Audubon scientists were able to draw from a database of 140 million records for its study of birds in Mexico, the US and Canada.

Using latest climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they examined the habitats of 604 North American species. Given projected increases in drought, heat, fire, rain and other factors, they found that 389 of the species studied would likely not survive in a world 3 degrees hotter.

Bateman was in second grade when she first heard the haunting call of the common loon on a lake in Wisconsin. That was her 'spark bird' that awakened her to a 'wonderful, wondrous world of birds.'

'Last year I brought my 5-year-old daughter, and she got to hear the loon for the first time. And it's like magic, you see it on their face.'

But as a vivid example of what science calls 'shifting baseline syndrome,' her daughter's daughter may never have the same experience.

'(The loon's) range is going to completely shift out of the US with climate change,' Bateman says. 'So you'll no longer be able to go to that same place, and hear that bird call anymore.'

And more alarming than the loss of songs and flashes of color at the backyard feeder is what birds like the American robin tell us about the speed of the changes.

'Robins are actually overwintering in a lot of places more frequently than they used to and not leaving at all,' Bateman says.

And at the risk of wearing out the analogy, she says every time you see a robin in December, think about that canary in the coal mine.

'Birds are indicators. Birds tell us. They're the ones that are telling us what's going on in the environment. And so, we say at Audubon that the birds are telling us it's time to act.'

West Lafayette
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 83°
Kokomo
Few Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Rensselaer
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Fowler
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Williamsport
Scattered Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 83°
Crawfordsville
Broken Clouds
80° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Frankfort
Broken Clouds
80° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 81°
Delphi
78° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 79°
Monticello
78° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 79°
Logansport
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 80°
Warm Day, Record Warm Night, Then Showers & Storms Friday
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 152396

Reported Deaths: 4023
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24905785
Lake13380352
St. Joseph8985161
Elkhart8530132
Allen7978222
Hamilton6000113
Vanderburgh567560
Tippecanoe358714
Monroe322238
Hendricks3221130
Johnson3051128
Porter303648
Clark289161
Delaware284574
Vigo256038
Madison232493
Cass222822
LaPorte220958
Warrick190065
Kosciusko179224
Floyd177367
Howard160066
Bartholomew139758
Dubois136726
Marshall134226
Henry123429
Grant122639
Wayne122127
Boone119548
Hancock115645
Noble114633
Jackson109413
Morgan93040
Dearborn92828
Daviess85333
Gibson84911
Clinton82916
Lawrence82634
Shelby80330
LaGrange77715
Harrison74824
Knox72110
Putnam71616
DeKalb69911
Posey6896
Fayette61417
Steuben6118
Miami5875
Montgomery57822
Jasper5744
White57215
Greene52137
Scott51013
Decatur49939
Adams4815
Whitley4426
Clay4396
Sullivan42913
Ripley4278
Wells4205
Wabash4029
Starke3977
Orange38825
Huntington3805
Spencer3746
Franklin36625
Washington3632
Jennings36013
Fulton3472
Randolph3439
Jefferson3305
Pike32915
Carroll31713
Perry29714
Jay2946
Fountain2883
Tipton27023
Vermillion2251
Newton22211
Parke2223
Rush2084
Owen2031
Blackford1983
Martin1960
Crawford1531
Pulaski1481
Brown1303
Ohio1247
Benton1080
Union1060
Switzerland900
Warren761
Unassigned0233

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events