Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Bird Behaviors: Climate

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Biodiversity, Nature, Wildlife, Climate Change, Global Change 

Ed Hessler

Jim Williams in another of his informative "On The Wing" columns (Star Tribune 9-23-2023) makes some observations about bird behavior, their changing ranges, seasonal asynchornicity. The column is behind a paywall unless you are a subscriber.

I will highlight some of the points. It all started with a reader question about a trumpet vine this year which has not attracted the attention of as many hummers in the past.

-- Bird behavior and their environments are becoming mismatched, i.e. when birds cannot shift their behavior to coincide with changes in environment, such as when prey is available. (From NatureCanada.)The essay makes these points: egg laying is occurring earlier, migration times are shifting, bird behavior and their environments are becoming mismatched, bird distributions are changing, ecological environments are disrupted, extinction risks are on the rise, and conclusions. Each of these is accompanied by a discussion.

--Williams quoted Rebecca Heisman, a science writer and author who lives in Washington state. She wrote this for the American Birding Conservancy, "many of these birds initiate their northward flight based on day length, not temperature." (emphasis mine). This results in changes in their prey, e.g., "'caterpillars may already be past their peak for the year, reducing their breeding success.'"

--An Audubon report on birds and climate that analyzed many decades of data, "showed," writes Williams, "a shift in the ranges of more than half of North America's bird species." What isn't known is "whether the new ranges meet the needs of the birds making the change."  This report includes a valuable and informative set of links to maps showing these changes.

Williams suggests some things we can do: reduce threats by outdoor cats, pesticides and windows, make smart decisions about how we live and travel to reduce carbon emissions, restore bird habitat."

Mr. Williams closes by saying a message that bears hearing again and again. " Don't expect the climate to improve. Act accordingly." Some (many?) of those actions are going to be found difficult because they challenge our traditions leading to new ones, once enacted.

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