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

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

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Central zone up to 1,249 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer sits at 257 active COVID-19 cases

Executive Director and Co-Founder of Rock Soup Craig Haavalsen is sleeping in a tent outside Rock Soup’s location until the Go Fund Me for Rock Soup raises $10,000. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Putting normalcy into asking for help: New non-profit sets up in Wetaskiwin

Rock Soup non-profit is a new secular Food Bank putting down roots in Wetaskiwin.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
New record: Red Deer at 236 active COVID cases

One more death in central zone reported

file photo
County of Wetaskiwin Land Use Bylaw amendments approved

Ammendments approved by Wetaskiwin County Council at Nov. 24, 2020 Council meeting.

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

A scene from last year’s Light the Night fundraiser at the Stettler Town and Country Museum. This year’s rendition is on a drive-through basis only, but it still promises to be a not-to-be-missed seasonal highlight. (Independent file photo)
Stettler Town and Country Museum hosts ‘Light the Night’

This year’s rendition is drive-through only, but will still prove to be a dazzling display

(Black Press File Photo)
Rimbey woman gathering Christmas gifts for seniors at Valleyview Manor

Margaret Tanasiuk says she doesn’t want anyone to feel forgotten on Christmas morning

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Lawyer Devon Page, Ecojustice Canada’s executive director, pauses during a news conference in Vancouver on Wed., Sept. 26, 2012. The environmental law group has lost its bid to pause Alberta’s inquiry into where critics of its oil and gas industry get their funding. Ecojustice sought an injunction this summer to suspend the inquiry, headed by forensic accountant Steve Allan, until there is a decision on whether it’s legal. nbsp;THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Judge tosses application to pause Alberta inquiry into funding of oil and gas foes

Ecojustice sought an injunction in the summer to suspend the inquiry

Most Read