On December 14th, I will join several others for an exciting day of counting bird species and numbers in our lovely, snowy valley. The numbers will be entered on a database that will be shared globally.
The data collected by observers over the past 120 years has allowed researchers to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space.
This long term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategists to better protect birds and their habitat and helps identify environmental issues, with implications for people as well.
The count has special significance for our changing climate’s impact on birds, which is disrupting populations and their spacial distribution that are changing at an accelerating rate.
Audubon’s 2014 Climate Change Report is a comprehensive, first-of-its kind study that predicts how climate change could affect the ranges of 588 North American birds. Of the bird species studied, more than half are likely to be in trouble. The models indicate that 314 species will lose more than half of their current range by 2080. Adding to this, a recent study by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology reported a 29 percent decline in North American bird populations since 1970.
142 species of concern are found in Utah including our state bird, the California gull and our national symbol, the bald eagle. Averaging the most recent 10 years, Cache valley has seen 16 species increase and 11 species decline. Of course we would need a much broader sweep to know the true story of these species, but our data may play a significant part in the overall analysis.
Audubon’s Climate Initiative, encourages its members to take steps to address the climate change threat in their backyards and communities. Visit their website at audubon.org for how to take action.
Many Citizen Science programs exist for families to participate in- https://www.birds.cornell.edu that have generated reams of data over many years showing the species diversity and abundance of birds in North America and globally. Our valley Christmas Bird Count occurs next Saturday, December 14th. Contact bridgerlandaudubon.org for details. Always a good time gathering important data!
And please, keep those bird feeders full as we enter the coldest month of the year!
Sound provided by Kevin Colver.