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How climate change is affecting Utah's birds

Posted at 8:43 PM, Apr 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-25 22:43:11-04

PROVIDENCE, Utah — Have you noticed fewer birds in your neighborhood? The National Audubon Society says climate change is affecting how many birds are surviving and where they’re going.

The banks of an irrigation canal in Providence, Utah are a popular spot for all kinds of birds, including ducks. They should be showing up in a couple weeks -- but not if climate change takes away their food, safety or habitat.

Bryan Williams and wife Nancy have been feeding and counting birds at their home since 1988, and they report their numbers to Cornell University.

“We will continue doing that through the end of the month and then over for the year because it’s a winter feeder watch,” Bryan said.

They’ve seen a decent variety, but it’s getting smaller.

The Audubon Society says more than half of the 588 North American bird species in their study are likely to be seriously impacted by climate change, and bird migrations are changing time and course.

The Society cites climate change for drought that destroys food, causes more fires and makes plants bloom too early.

“As the planet is warming and seasons are changing, specifically with birds, the migratory season’s getting longer so there is greater time of the year where the birds are able to stay in their warm season location,” said Jon Meyer, a research climatologist with the Utah Climate Center. “That also applies for resident local bird populations, not necessarily the long migratory patterns but even just the transition from valleys to mountains for some bird species.”

Lighting is also a concern.

“Most [birds] migrate at night, and the lights disorient them,” Meyer said.

Another issue is building on their habitat.

But the birds can also show us where we’re headed.

“Climate is very much intertwined with the plant and animals of the world. One of the places that climate scientists partner with other earth scientists is in this idea that the climate is changing, and that's influencing migratory patterns of birds and other animals,” Meyer said.

He says scientists can see that, and it agrees with what they’re seeing with the temperature records.

Bridgerland Audubon Society’s website has a list of things you can do to help birds.