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Adélie Penguin. Photo: gn13/Adobe Stock

Section 1

Current Threats

Global warming threatens bird species worldwide.

Across species and habitats, birds show us climate change is already a threat.

Emperor Penguins struggling as sea ice disappears; Keel-billed Toucans moving farther up mountain slopes towards suitable climate; Worthen’s Sparrows plummeting in abundance due to warming temperatures. Research on birds’ response to climate change emphasizes the impact of distribution and range shifts to date, and that taken together, climate change poses more dangers than it provides benefits.

  • Climate change already affects species in diverse, mostly negative, ways

    Arctic Terns Photo: Incredible Arctic/Adobe Stock

    Climate change already affects species in diverse, mostly negative, ways

    Climate change is not just a concern for the future: It is already threatening species. Climate change has been an important driver of bird population trends across northern continents since the 1980s. So far, one-quarter of species studied in detail show negative responses to recent climate change, while only one in eight responded positively.

    Case Studies
  • Climate change has driven population declines and distribution shifts

    Scarlet Tanager Photo: Daniel Behm/Audubon Photography Awards

    Climate change has driven population declines and distribution shifts

    Rising temperatures and other recent changes in climate have significantly impacted species’ populations. Although warming has increased the abundance of some adaptable species in temperate regions, it has driven declines in many more species. It also creates distribution shifts to higher latitudes or altitudes, which has already led to significant changes in the composition of bird communities.

    Case Studies
  • Climate change disrupts interactions among species

    Atlantic Puffin Photo: Kevin Vande Vusse/Audubon Photography Awards

    Climate change disrupts interactions among species

    Species interact with predators, parasites, competitors, and other species that they eat. Climate change is already disrupting these interactions, which affect abundance, quality of food supply, and timing of biological processes. Such effects have probably been more significant than the direct impacts of rising temperatures and other climatic shifts.

    Case Studies