Climate Change and Birdlife

Climate change is having unpredicted effects on a wide range of birdlife, party due to direct effects, partly due to human factors as well. This is from the i paper last week

Wrens and chiffchaffs are among those species flourishing in northern Europe, while the victims include willow tits and bramblings, as global warming improves conditions for some and makes them worse for others. In some cases the birds are benefitting or suffering directly from changes … in others, it may be an indirect consequence, such as global-warming-induced declines in forests or other suitable habitats, or dwindling food supplies.

In northern Europe, wrens and oath species have been increasing in number as the winters become milder but declining further south where summers have become hotter and drier, says the report led by Durham University. The research is ground-breaking because it analyses trends in Europe and America and finds that climate change is picking out winners and losers in both continents – although with only a handful of species common to both continents, the birds are different in each case. It takes into account other facots, such as the size of the birds, the habitats they life in and their migration paptterns, which also affect bird populations. But the research finds these do not differ significantly between the groups being advantaged by climate change. This means that only climate change could explain the differences between population trends among winers and the losers, although in many cases it is still not known exactly how it is working to help or hinder those bird species, the research finds.

“If there was no impact of climate change, you would expect the average trend of species in the two groups – of winners and losers – to be the same. But the differences expose the fact that recent climate change has already favoured one species over another,” said Dr Philip Stephens, one of the authors of the report, published in the journal Science.

The researchers drew their conclusions after analysing climate records from 1980 to 2010 for 145 common bird species in Europe and 380 in the USA. Durham conducted its research in collaboration with the RSPB.

But climate isn’t the only factor changing bird behaviour. White storks addicted to leftovers have stopped migrating – staying in Spain or Portugal to feed on burgers and sandwiches from landfill sites.

This makes the whole situation a lot more complicated, as in Britain a lot of people feed birds and that isn’t included in these studies.


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