Environment: Changes in precipitation may drive birds response to global warming

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Perched.

New model unravels some of the complexities of how wildlife will respond to global warming

Staff Report

FRISCO — Populations of familiar backyard birds like the rufous hummingbird and evening grosbeak are declining, a trend that may be linked with changes in precipitation patterns across the western U.S.

Scientists studying the changes with a new model say precipitation, rather than temperature, may be the the main factor in determining how birds will respond to climate change.

Several past studies have found that temperature increases can push some animal species – including birds – into higher latitudes or higher elevations. Few studies, however, have tackled the role that changes in precipitation may cause, according to Matthew Betts, an Oregon State University ecologist and a principal investigator on the study. Continue reading

Where have all the blue-footed boobies gone?

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Galápagos Islands blue-footed boobie populations have dwindled by a third since the 1960s. Photo via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons license.

Scientists track decline of iconic Galápagos birds

Staff Report

FRISCO — Populations of blue-footed boobies, one of the Galápagos Islands iconic species, have dwindled by a third since the 1960s, mainly because the birds don’t seem to be finding the food they need to breed and raise chicks.

The population decline is so steep that the birds are in danger of dying out, according to a new study published in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology. The researchers found that sardines have all but disappeared from the birds’ diet, said Wake Forest University biology professor Dave Anderson. Without that primary food source, adult birds are simply choosing not to breed, he said. Continue reading

Study: Birds have highly developed weather ‘radar’

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Study offers new insight into long-distance avian migration.

‘We think that these behaviors represent a previously unknown cognitive ability …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some migrating birds may be able to sense weather patterns on a hemispheric scale, helping them optimally time their nonstop transoceanic flights.

Bar-tailed godwits, the ultra-marathon champions of migration, breed in Alaska and spend winters in New Zealand and a recent U.S. Geological Survey-led study suggests that these birds can sense broad weather patterns.

Careful monitoring of the birds suggest they time their departure  to match the best possible atmospheric wind conditions possible within a two-week window. Remarkably, not only were the conditions optimal for take-off, but they almost always provided the best possible conditions for the birds’ entire flights, as far as 7,000 miles in eight days between Alaska and New Zealand.

Continue reading

Study: Eastern chickadee populations moving fast in response to global warming

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Some bird populations are shifting fast in response to climate change. bberwyn photo.

‘The rapidity with which these changes are happening is a big deal’

*More Summit Voice stories on birds and climate change here.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Watching climate change is a little more subtle than just sitting around watching a thermometer, but sometimes even scientists are surprised at just how fast things are changing.

A group of East Coast university researchers probably felt that way as they studied the breeding areas of Carolina and black-capped chickadees. Along a narrow zone in the eastern U.S., the two species interbreed, and that overlap zone is moving northward at 0.7 miles per year — a full-on sprint by geological time standards. Continue reading

Christmas bird count starts this week

Annual survey helps track population trends, potential threats

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A red-tailed hawk perches on a snag in the Williams Fork Range in Summit County, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Experienced birders and novices alike are invited to join in one of the longest-running citizen science surveys in the world — the 114th annual Christmas Bird Count, set this year for Dec. 14 through Jan. 5, 2014.

This year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is hosting an event at the State Forest State Park, near Gould. The 71,000-acre park includes alpine lakes, forests and peaks along the west side of the Medicine Bow Mountains and into the north end of the Never Summer Range. Continue reading

Global warming, anti-pollution measures combine to cut bird populations at Northern Ireland’s Loch Neagh

Loch Neagh, in Northern Ireland, from a NASA Landsat image.

Bird populations are declining at Loch Neagh, in Northern Ireland. Photo courtesy NASA Landsat.

Warmer temps in northeastern Europe shifting bird migration patterns

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Biologists studying wildlife at Lough Neagh say the number of overwintering birds at the largest lake in the British Isles has dropped dramatically in just a few decades.

The decline is due to a quirky combination of improved water quality and global warming, according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast. Cutting nutrient pollution has suppressed algae in the lake, which means less food for snails and aquatic bugs, and in turn, less food for diving birds.

And, warmer temperatures across northeastern Europe means the birds don’t have to fly all the way to Northern Ireland to find a place to spend the cold season.

The study by Quercus, Northern Ireland’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, found the number of diving ducks migrating to the lake for the winter months has dropped from 100,000 to less than 21,000 in the space of a decade. Continue reading

How does global warming affects bird migration?

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Broad-tailed hummingbirds may have a hard time finding food during the short breeding season as temperatures in the Colorado Rocky Mountains continue to warm steadily. bberwyn photo.

Earlier nesting and breeding observed in some species

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Some birds are nesting and hatching earlier because of steadily increasing global temperatures, and that may be driving earlier migration in some species according to scientists with the University of East Anglia.

Changes in migration timing has already been linked with a biological disconnect between some species and their primary food sources, for example hummingbirds that fly to the southern Rocky Mountains, as well as purple martins that fly from South America to eastern North America. Both species arrival is increasingly out of synch with key food sources.

“We have known that birds are migrating earlier and earlier each year … particularly those that migrate over shorter distances,” said Lead researcher Dr. Jenny Gill from UEA’s school of Biological Sciences. “But the reason why has puzzled bird experts for years. It’s a particularly important question because the species which are not migrating earlier are declining in numbers.” Continue reading

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