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Report: Changing Climate Threatens CT Birds

As water temperatures rise, some shorebirds canít find enough of the fish they need to feed their young. (porojnicu/Adobe Stock)
As water temperatures rise, some shorebirds canít find enough of the fish they need to feed their young. (porojnicu/Adobe Stock)
December 6, 2019

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Rising sea levels and warmer waters are threatening some of Connecticut's bird species, according to a new report.

The Connecticut Audubon Society's annual State of the Birds report says water quality in Long Island Sound is as good as it's been since before the height of the industrial age.

But Patrick Comins, the group's executive director, points out that global climate change is already having negative impacts on birds in the state – for example, the Saltmarsh sparrow, which lays its eggs on the ground in coastal marshes.

"The period between flood tides is getting shorter and shorter, just because of the small amount of sea-level rise we've already experienced,” says Comins. “And that species has declined by something like 80% in the past decade."

The report says rising water temperatures are also causing changes in the species of fish found in Long Island Sound – fish that many birds depend on for food.

Comins notes that butterfish are following the warmer waters and have been displacing the sand lance, a smaller species that terns need to feed their chicks.

"There was almost a complete lack of productivity on the big tern colonies at Great Gull Island and Faulkner Island, where the common terns were not finding enough fish to feed their young,” says Comins.

He says the butterfish are too large for the young terns to swallow.

Comins adds that people can make a difference by getting involved, supporting conservation efforts and volunteering to help protect coastal waterbirds.

"And very importantly, to make their voices heard,” says Comins, “to reach out to their elected officials and let them know that wildlife and habitat, and Long Island Sound, are important to them."

The full report is online at ''

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT