Interior Releases 2010 State of the Birds Report

A team of federal and nongovernment scientists concludes that 100s of species of U.S. birds are threatened by climate change

03-12-2010 // NWF Staff
Spectacled Eider

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently released a report concluding that climate change threatens to further imperil 100s of species of birds already under stress from habitat loss, invasive species and other threats. The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change is a follow up to a comprehensive report released last year showing that nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline.

“For well over a century, migratory birds have faced stresses such as commercial hunting, loss of forests, the use of DDT and other pesticides, a loss of wetlands and other key habitat, the introduction of invasive species and other impacts of human development,” said Salazar. “Now they are facing a new threat—climate change—that could dramatically alter their habitat and food supply and push many species towards extinction.”

A collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and experts from some of the nation’s leading conservation organizations, the report demonstrates that climate changes will have an increasingly disruptive effect on bird species in all habitats, with oceanic and Hawaiian birds facing greatest peril.

Oceanic birds are among the most vulnerable because they don’t raise many young each year; they face challenges from a rapidly changing marine ecosystem; and they nest on islands that may be flooded as sea levels rise. All 67 oceanic bird species, such as petrels and albatrosses, are among the most vulnerable birds to climate change.

Hawaiian birds such as endangered species Puaiohi and ’Akiapōlā’au already face multiple threats and are increasingly challenged by mosquito-borne diseases and invasive species as climate change alters their native habitats.

Birds in coastal, arctic/alpine and grassland habitats as well as those on Caribbean and Pacific islands show intermediate levels of vulnerability; most birds in aridlands, wetlands, and forests show relatively low vulnerability to climate change.

For bird species that are already of conservation concern such as the golden-cheeked warbler, whooping crane and spectacled eider (above), the added vulnerability to climate change may hasten declines or prevent recovery.

The report identified common species such as the American oystercatcher, common nighthawk and northern pintail that are likely to become species of conservation concern as a result of climate change.

"Just as they did in 1962 when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, our migratory birds are sending us a message about the health of our planet," said Salazar.

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