There is an official state bird, generally an exemplary species for every state in America, that helps define the landscape. The common loon is the state bird of Minnesota whose haunting wails echo across the northern lakes of the state each summer. The brown thrasher, a fiercely territorial bird, is the state bird of Georgia with a collection of more than 1,000 song types.
However, across the country, birds relocate to escape the heat as the planet warms. During the summer, at least in eight states, state birds are noticed largely or entirely disappear from within their borders, according to a new study.
Brown Thrasher: State bird of Georgia
Probability of losing 98 percent of its summer range in the state
Due to rising temperatures and other threats from climate change, across North America, hundreds of bird species are likely to shift their ranges drastically in the decades ahead, the research by the National Audubon Society released on Thursday disclosed.
As warming forces birds into unfamiliar territory or shrinks their existing habitats, it is anticipated that many bird species could struggle to survive as per the report. And if humans continue pumping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, the avian world needs to be remapped thoroughly.
In case there is a probable 3 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures above preindustrial levels this century, the local climate conditions of Minnesota will no longer be the same for the loons that arrive to breed and hunt for food each summer, the study found. Therefore, the birds may avoid the state altogether taking a detour and head farther north.
It also applies to other state birds as well, including Alabama’s northern flicker locally known as the yellowhammer, Georgia’s brown thrasher, the purple finch of New Hampshire, Vermont’s the hermit thrush and the goldfinch in Iowa and New Jersey. At 3 degrees of global warming, these birds would possibly lose virtually all of their summer ranges within the states.
California Quail: State bird of California
Probability of losing 87 percent of its winter range in the state
The study found California quail could lose 87 percent of its winter range in California that often seen strutting around the suburbs and parks of the state. And the ruffed grouse, one that is official state game bird in Pennsylvania and popular with hunters, could lose all its summer and winter ranges in the state.
“It’s one way we’ll see the effects of climate change right in our own backyards,” said David Yarnold, the president of the National Audubon Society. “If you’ve ever been around a lake in the upper United States, you can probably hear the sound of a loon in your head. It’s hard to imagine a Minnesota summer without them. It’s hard to imagine a New Jersey summer without goldfinches.”
Common Loon: State bird of Minnesota
Probability of losing 100 percent of its summer range in the state
Data collected from millions of bird observations used by Audubon’s scientists to conduct the study and mapped the current ranges and habitats of 604 bird species across North America. After that, climate models are used to estimate the birds’ future ranges under warming conditions of 1.5 to 2 and 3 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Many birds were expected to try moving to keep up with shifts in temperature, rainfall as well as vegetation.
Many species could even face significant upheaval.
As per the study, the report classified 389 of the species as “vulnerable” to 3 degrees Celsius of warming. That means the birds, including the lark bunting, Colorado’s state bird, and the wood thrush, a migratory bird that breeds in Eastern forests are projected to lose a significant portion of their current range with relatively limited opportunities to move elsewhere.
Ruffed Grouse: State bird of Pennsylvania
Probability of losing 100 percent of its summer and winter range in the state
The bird species that are likely to face additional dangers from climate change, such as increased heat during spring, devastating wildfires, or rising ocean levels also mapped out in the report. The birds that build nests in sandy areas along the Atlantic coast is expected to see its habitat encroached by the rising seas. A good example is the piping plover.
According to the findings of outside experts who reviewed the study, its methods of projecting shifting of bird ranges along with other climate threats are reasonable. However, they warned that predicting the number of bird species that might be able to adapt to hotter climates and new environments can be extremely difficult — conversely, there are also a number of birds that might face a high risk of extinction as an outcome.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about how certain species might adapt to novel climate conditions,” said Benjamin Zuckerberg, an associate professor in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “We might see bird species shifting their nesting times or changing their diet.”
But, he added, “there is a real concern that the rate of climate change is going to be beyond the ability of many species to adapt.”
Goldfinch: State bird of New Jersey
Probability of losing 100 percent of its summer range in the state
The Audubon report is the updated study of the group with much more detail` on how climate change might disrupt bird populations and published in 2014. A recent paper in the journal Science estimated a 29 percent decline in the bird’s number in the US and Canada since 1970, which means 2.9 billion fewer birds in the skies today. As per experts, much of that decline was likely caused by factors such as habitat loss or pesticide use, not climate change.
However, there are some signs that due to global warming, additional pressure is now on birds. As scientists concluded in a 2012 study, the climate change has likely resulted in the decline of the once-common rusty blackbird with its range in Maine retract northward with the rise in temperatures.
Purple Finch: State bird of New Hampshire
Probability of losing 99 percent of its summer range in the state
There are ways to reduce the pressure on the birds of North America, as the Audubon study suggests. Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would likely help. To reduce the vulnerability of hundreds of species significantly total global warming needs to be restricted to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, the study concluded.
Although the nations globally have vowed to curb emissions to limit global warming to those lower levels under the Paris climate agreement, they are failing to deliver.
Hopefully, among other things, many state birds, including Minnesota’s loon and New Hampshire’s purple finch, would more likely maintain at least a fraction of their current range in their states at the lower end of global warming.
The adaptive measures that need to be taken would protect the habitat of birds of today and also species that might migrate in the future into an area. Mr. Yarnold, the president of Audubon, suggested that policymakers could protect forests and local wetlands, while local communities could help plant more native vegetation along highway medians and in backyards.
“The big takeaway is that we can have a huge impact on the future of the planet, and of birds, by changing our emissions trajectory,” he said. “But there are also things that people can do in their own communities, in their own backyards.”