Birds at Risk

How are birds being affected now? In some ways this can be a hard question to answer. The research or science might not be available for years. There can be multiple reasons for the decline of bird populations but nobody can argue that climate change has and will cause drought in the Southwest and will cause water problems for many birds. Think about duck populations in those Southwest states. Let take the case of a federally endangered species, the Whooping Crane.

Whooping Crane in flight in Texas.
Photo by: John Noll / USDA

According to Wikipedia, “The Whooping Crane (Grus americana), the tallest North American bird, is an endangered crane species named for its whooping sound. In 2003, there were about 153 pairs of whooping cranes. Along with the Sandhill Crane, it is one of only two crane species found in North America. The Whooping Crane’s lifespan is estimated to be 22 to 24 years in the wild. After being pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just 21 wild and two captive Whooping Cranes by 1941, conservation efforts have led to a limited recovery. As of 2011, there are an estimated 437 birds in the wild and more than 165 in captivity.” Most of the few remaining Whooping Cranes winter in Texas at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Whooping Cranes feed on Blue Crabs that need a certain mixture of fresh and salt water. Not enough fresh water, the crabs die along with the cranes that feed on them.

The conflict of fresh water distribution pitted a state agency against a federally protected bird. This year, “A federal judge has ruled that the state of Texas failed to take necessary steps to provide enough water to maintain the habitat of the endangered whooping crane – a decision which could have implications on how water in some areas is rationed in future droughts…The evidence established that the TCEQ defendants’ water management practices alter the salinity of San Antonio Bay and the designated critical habitat of the whooping crane,” Jack said in her 134-page opinion issued on Monday. “Inactions and refusal to act by the defendants proximately caused an unlawful ‘take’ of at least twenty-three whooping cranes.” You can read the full story in this Houston Chronicle story.

As you have read in this blog, climate change is warming up the oceans. Cold water fish are leaving their normal ranges in search of colder water. This is affecting sea birds that feed on these cold water fish. It’s happening on our East Coast and across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom. 

Photo by: Shutterstock

“Puffins, terns, and butterflies are among the key species in the U.K. being put at risk from global warming, which is transforming the U.K.’s coastal areas as sea levels rise and storms grow fiercer, a study by the National Trust has found.

Sea levels are predicted to rise by up to half a meter by the turn of the century, and coastal erosion is accelerating, with a fourfold increase in landslips reported.

Puffin chicks are having a particularly hard time — their preferred meal of sand eels is disappearing, owing to overfishing and changing ocean temperatures, and in their place a new fish has moved into U.K. waters that the chicks find indigestible. The newcomer is the snake pipefish, normally found in warmer waters but moving northwards as the climate changes — with devastating effects for puffins, as it is bony and hard for the birds to eat. Some chicks have been found dead, the trust reports, having choked trying to swallow pipefish.” This story can be found here.

“At the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the tiny bodies of Arctic tern chicks have piled up. Over the past few years, biologists have counted thousands that starved to death because the herring their parents feed them have vanished.

Puffins are also having trouble feeding their chicks, which weigh less than previous broods. When the parents leave the chicks to fend for themselves, the young birds are failing to find food, and hundreds are washing up dead on the Atlantic coast.

What’s happening to migratory seabirds? Biologists are worried about a twofold problem: Commercial fishing is reducing their food source, and climate change is causing fish to seek colder waters, according to a bulletin released Tuesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” This story in the Bangor Daily News can be found here. It also talks about Puffins and the Red Knot, “Climate change also threatens a shorebird, the red knot. As temperatures warm, they are leaving the southern tip of Brazil later for a 9,000-mile journey back to their Arctic breeding ground. Timing is key, because red knots might miss the peak of Delaware’s horseshoe crab spawn, where they gorge themselves on eggs and double their weight.”

(Credit: AP/Elaine Thompson)

This Thinkprogress article further explains the Red Knot issue.

Most of the bird groups mentioned in the last post agree that the issue of climate change will change the cycle of food and prey timing that will affect all migratory birds. There are links to those reports in that post.

What about other animals. Here is just a short list of animals that are being affected.

Climate Change Is Killing The Wolves Of Isle Royale.

Desert Tortoises May Be Starving, Dehydrating And Dying Because of Climate Change

Polar Bear Attacks on the Rise






Red Knot on Ten Mile Beach

After bailing out my bike from, “Catch a Canoe & Bicycles Too” (4 broken spokes on the back tire) I was able to get down to Ten Mile Beach for a long hike. Added Red Knot to my year list(#223). Red Knots are rare in Mendocino County especially during the Summer. 

Not a great picture but it get’s the job done.