How climate change impacts on birds - Examples

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The tawny eagle is an arid savanna raptor found in Asia and Africa. Decreases in precipitation predicted with climate change would likely result in the birds’ extinction in its African habitat in the southern Kalahari.
© WWF-Canon / Roger Hooper

Africa

The tawny eagle is an arid savanna raptor found in Asia and Africa.

Small changes in precipitation predicted with climate change would likely result in the bird’s extinction in its African habitat in the southern Kalahari.

If the mean annual precipitation stays the same but the inter-annual (year to year) variation increases by less than 10%, the bird’s population will decrease considerably.

Europe

 / ©: WWF_Canon/Kevin Schaffer
Common murre (guillemot; Uria aalge) colony nesting on bare ledges St. Paul Island, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, United States of America
© WWF_Canon/Kevin Schaffer
The particular vulnerability of seabirds to climate change is illustrated by the unprecedented breeding crash of UK North Sea seabirds in 2004.

The direct cause for the breeding failure of common guillemots, Arctic skuas, great skuas, kittiwakes, Arctic terns and other seabirds at Shetland and Orkney colonies was a shortage of small fish called sandeels, a crucial prey species for the seabirds.

As a result, the nearly 7,000 pairs of great skuas in the Shetlands, for example, produced only a handful of chicks and starving adult birds ate their own young.

Warming ocean waters and major shifts in species that underpin the ocean food web are thought to be behind the major sandeel decline.

Asia

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Michel TERRETTAZ
Siberian Cranes Grus leucogeranus
© WWF-Canon / Michel TERRETTAZ
The Siberian Crane is a critically endangered migratory wetland bird numbering 3,000 individuals worldwide.

Siberian cranes breed in Arctic Russia and Siberia, and most winter in China in the middle to lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

This bird’s Arctic tundra habitat is forecast to decline by 70% as it becomes colonized by trees as global warming progresses.

Decreased precipitation coupled with more intense rainfall events also negatively affects the crane in its habitat in China.

Increasing drought due to higher temperatures is thought to be one factor that caused a subpopulation of Siberian cranes, which once wintered in India’s Keoladeo National Park, to shift out of the park and become locally extinct.

Latin America

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Rey-Millet
Galapagos Penguins are one of the Panguin species at threat from climate change
© WWF-Canon / Rey-Millet
Galápagos penguins are island seabirds that are highly vulnerable to climate change.

Endangered penguin populations have halved since the early 1970s because the adult penguins become emaciated (sometimes dying) and fail to reproduce during severe El Niño years.

Because climate change is expected to make El Niños more frequent in future, it is expected to further reduce these small, restricted populations of Galápagos penguins and threaten them with extinction.

North America

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Kevin Schaffer
Lunda cirrhata Tufted puffin St. Paul Island, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, United States of America
© WWF-Canon / Kevin Schaffer
Tufted puffins are specialist seabirds which are highly vulnerable to climate change.

At the world's largest puffin breeding colony, two decades of unusually warm temperatures associated with climate change between 1975 and 2002 led to drastically decreased growth rates of tufted puffin nestlings, with fledging success near zero when waters were warmest.

Climate change could eventually make this puffin colony unsuitable for breeding for tufted puffins.

Australia

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Calyptorhynchus banksii Red-tailed black-cockatoo Common species Australia
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
The southeastern Australian habitat of the endangered red-tailed black cockatoo. It is expected to contract to just 2% of its current extent under climate projections of 3˚C of warming with a 10% decrease in rainfall.

In the northeastern Wet Tropics, almost three quarters of all bird there species could become extinct with global warming of greater than 2˚C.

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