The Vulnerability of Birds to Climate Change Effects


A multitude of bird species are vulnerable to climate change effects. Bird migration patterns are changing because of global warming, and the extinction rates of all kinds of birds are increasing worldwide due to climate change. The term “climate refugee” most often used to describe human beings who are displaced due to climate change is also being used to describe animals and birds displaced due to declining natural habitats. Some birds are migrating earlier in the Spring, while others are no longer migrating. For example, crows are expected to increase their ranges, other birds will see their territories shrink, and it is anticipated that some Arctic birds will have “nowhere else to go” as birds from southern regions migrate north to adapt to rising temperatures.

Land conservation and remediation efforts enable birds to adapt to climate change. At Walpole Island First Nation in Southern Ontario, efforts to re-establish the population of purple martins were put into place in 2009 after Elders shared stories that the Island was once a haven for the birds, yet there had been no sightings of the birds for decades. The Island is now home to hundreds of fledglings each year and is possibly the largest roost of purple martins in North America. Parks Canada is also working to establish areas with natural features (i.e., lakes, areas out of reach of wildfires, north-facing slopes) where birds will be able to find refuge in areas being called “climate refugia.”


By Leela Viswanathan


(Photo credit: Barth Bailey, Unsplash)