Friday, December 4, 2009

Birds and climate change and, well, change...

There is an interesting little summary piece on the Birdlife International page today about the impact on birds of climate change. You can read this at:

Here in Manitoba, we have seen northward shifts in particular of aspen parkland species. For example, I recently documented Yellow-throated Vireo in the Porcupine Mountains, a good 200km north of even the most current range maps. In and around The Pas, where land clearing for agriculture has created parkland like habitat, other parkland species like Black-billed Cuckoo are starting to show up, again well north of their expected range. Trembling aspens themselves are apparently growing faster and are encroaching on new areas at a rapid rate.

Notice anything special about the bird in the photo below?

You might if you had been studying them in the U.K since the 1960s! This is Blackcap, a type of Old World warbler. Since the 1960s some Blackcaps breeding in Germany, began changing their migration. Instead of going southwest to Spain, they went northwest to southern England. There have been many articles written about that fascinating phenomenon. It is also one of those cases that demonstrate the important partnership between birdwatchers and scientists. It is precisely because there are so many birdwatchers in every corner of the British Isles that this phenomenon was so well documented. But the story doesn't end there...

We are also starting to learn of the truly staggering pace at which birds can react to seemingly subtle changes in their environment. An interesting piece came out in the Globe and Mail summarising the findings of a recent study demonstrating how the population of Blackcaps that migrate to the U.K have made subtle changes to their bill shape and wing shape in just a few decades. The authors concluded that this was thanks to the combined effects of climate change and… wait for it... bird feeders! Really makes one think of the impact of even seemingly innocuous behaviour like putting up a bird feeder. Read the following for more details:

It is amazing what a difference a few degrees makes… and the cumulative pressures on birds from so much and so many types of change, change, change is staggering!


  1. You have a wonderful blog with beautiful pictures! My younger brother (a sophomore in college) wants has recently discovered a deep love for birds and wants to do something similar to this as a career. I'll have to so him your blog. Have a great day!

  2. Thanx Katie! Your brother is more than welcome t ocontact me if he likes.

  3. Great! Please forgive the ridiculous typos in the previous comment. I had a cold when I posted it (and had taken the appropriate meds). I emailed my brother a link to your blog, and hopefully he'll check it out when he gets a chance.


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