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Report: Birds Can't Fly Faster than Climate Change

PHOTO: A new report says migratory birds are having a tough time adjusting to a changing climate. Klamath Nat'l. Wildlife Refuge water shortages are a combination of drought and multiple use pressures. Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
PHOTO: A new report says migratory birds are having a tough time adjusting to a changing climate. Klamath Nat'l. Wildlife Refuge water shortages are a combination of drought and multiple use pressures. Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
June 20, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. - Birds are feeling the negative effects of a warming climate, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and they are having trouble adapting. In Oregon, that means the marbled murrelets on the coast, sage grouse in the eastern Oregon desert, and world-class duck-hunting in the Klamath Basin all are being affected.

NWF senior scientist Dr. Doug Inkley said people may assume that migratory bird species, especially, have an advantage because they can fly to different places.

"The opposite is true," he said. "They're actually more vulnerable than most of the species that are more residential in nature. Migratory birds face the unique challenge of climate change potentially affecting any of the multiple habitats that they require - to breed, to migrate and to overwinter."

Inkley said one problem with changing flight patterns and timing is that the birds show up at the wrong times for their natural food sources in those areas. The "Shifting Skies" report cites climate change as the biggest threat to birds in this century.

Western forests are seeing pine beetle infestations that are climate-related, according to the report. Nic Callero, regional outreach coordinator with NWF's Northwest office said that starts a chain reaction, which ends up affecting birds.

"What we're seeing right now is a huge increase in large-scale forest fires from that specific climate impact. When these fires burn out of control, they burn hotter and they burn larger; we see a huge impact on wildlife and also on many of the migratory bird species," Callero said.

The report warns that the nation is not moving quickly enough to address cutting carbon pollution, from vehicles or industrial sources. Dr. Alan Wentz, chief conservation officer, Ducks Unlimited, said farmers could be helping, too.

"Right now, the U.S. House of Representatives needs to be passing a strong five-year Farm Bill that improves conservation of the land," he urged. "There are a lot of programs in that Farm Bill that'll help control climate change, to all of our benefit."

Among the report's recommendations for curbing climate change are more aggressive enforcement of the Clean Air Act, doing more to encourage clean energy development and minimizing coal as a power source.

The report is available at www.nwf.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR