The incredible story of bigger shrinking birds, courtesy of global climate change

Two years ago, it was “Study says global warming shrinks birds” now thanks to impressive further study, they’ve discovered it’s “Bigger birds in central California, courtesy of global climate change.

Can’t they get their story straight? Why don’t they ask Jim Henson Hansen?

From San Francisco State University

Bigger birds in central California, courtesy of global climate change

SAN FRANCISCO — Birds are getting bigger in central California, and that was a big surprise for Rae Goodman and her colleagues.

Goodman uncovered the trend while working as a graduate student for San Francisco State University biologist Gretchen LeBuhn, analyzing data from thousands of birds caught and released each year at two sites near San Francisco Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore.

The SF State scientists, working with researchers from PRBO Conservation Science and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory who collected the data, found that birds’ wings have grown longer and birds are increasing in mass over the last 27 to 40 years.

What’s making the birds bigger? The researchers think that the trend is due to climate change, but their findings put a twist in the usual thinking about climate change and body size. A well-known ecological rule, called Bergmann’s Rule, states that animals tend to be larger at higher latitudes. One reason for this rule might be that larger animals conserve body heat better, allowing them to thrive in the generally colder climate of higher latitudes.

Under this reasoning, some scientists have predicted that animals would get smaller as the Earth has warmed up over the past 100 years. But the study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, suggests that the connection may not be so simple.

Climate change may affect body size in a variety of ways, they note in their paper. For instance, birds might get bigger as they store more fat to ride out severe weather events, which are expected to be more common under global climate change. Climate change could also alter a region’s plant growth, which may eventually lead to changes in a bird’s diet that affect its size.

LeBuhn, an assistant professor of biology, said she was “completely surprised” to find that the central California birds were growing larger over time. “It’s one of those moments where you ask, ‘what’s happening here?'” The results were so unexpected, she said, that the findings made them take a step back and look more closely at how climate change could influence body size.

The bird data come from two long-term “banding stations” in central California, where a wide variety of birds are captured, banded about the leg with an identification tag, and weighed and measured before being released. Many of the same birds were captured each year, allowing the researchers at the sites to build up a unique database that could be used to track changes among the birds over several decades.

The researchers used data from 14,735 individual birds collected from 1971 to 2010 at the Palomarin Field Station, near the southern end of the Point Reyes National Seashore, by researchers from PRBO Conservation Science. Their study also included data on 18,052 birds collected between 1983 and 2009, from the Coyote Creek Field Station at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay by the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory.

“At the time I started my research, a few studies had looked at body size changes in a few species in Europe and the Middle East, but no one had examined bird body size changes in North America,” said Goodman, who now teaches Biology and Environmental Science at San Francisco’s Jewish Community High School of the Bay.

“We had the good fortune to find an unexpected result — a gem in research science,” she added. “But we were then left with the puzzle of figuring out what was going on.”

After testing and discarding a number of other explanations, Goodman and her colleagues were confident that climate change was behind the longer wings and bigger bodies in most of the birds. The birds may be responding to climate-related changes in plant growth or increased climate variability in central California, the researchers suggest in the paper.

“The fingerprint of climate change is showing up in many of our ecosystems,” explains Nat Seavy, research director for the Central Coast at PRBO Conservation Science. “The challenge is to use the long-term data we’ve been collecting to understand how, where and why these changes are occurring.”

The findings offer a glimpse at the potent effects of climate change across a wide range of species, LeBuhn said. “Even over a pretty short period of time, we’ve documented changes in important traits like body size, where we don’t expect to see much flexibility.”

“But in some ways,” she added, “it gave me a little more hope that these birds are able to respond — hopefully in time — to changes in climate.”

“Although it is encouraging that species are changing in response to climate change,” said Seavy, “it is also troubling that environmental stressors are pushing and pulling on species in diverse ways…What will happen to our ecosystems as some species get larger and others get smaller? We need long-term monitoring to help us understand the impact of these changes.”

###

“Avian body size changes and climate change: warming or increasing variability?” appeared online Oct. 12, 2011, published by Global Change Biology. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02538.x/full

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90 Responses to The incredible story of bigger shrinking birds, courtesy of global climate change

  1. Michael Palmer says:

    Right. The birds anticipate the more frequent severe weather events that have yet to materialize, because that is how evolution works. Of course, if we lived in harmony with Nature, just like the birds do, then we would just know, too, what climate change will bring, and there would be no more pesky bickering and [snip].

  2. Brad S says:

    But weren’t frogs getting samller just last week?

  3. Henry says:

    “We need long-term monitoring to help us understand the impact of these changes”
    Translation; “We need more dollars!!”

  4. H.R. says:

    To borrow from Twain, “Wholesale return of conjecture for such a trifling investment of fact.”

    As I read the article, due to MMGW, birds will get bigger when they don’t get smalle if they don’t stay the same, but some may get bigger and smaller. And they were surprised by this result!

  5. Julian Flood says:

    In the UK great tits adjust their weight depending on how many predators (mainly sparrowhawks) are around. My guess is that all the fast falcons and hawks in LaLa… sorry, California are being mashed by the windmills and the larger chicks, clumsier and slower flyers when just fledged and thus normally gobbled up, are now growing to adult size.
    Or something.

    JF
    Just use your imagination guys — and get a grip, please.

  6. u.k.(us) says:

    Birds have wings so that they may travel to their preferred climate, mostly following their food sources.
    It is called migration.
    The birds will be fine, as long as they find enough to eat.

  7. John Phillips says:

    This is all bird-brained. There is no discussion of statistical significance. Maybe its in the detailed paper. But in any case, why jump immediately to climate change as the cause?

  8. Jim Barker says:

    I guess it could be possible that some birds grow larger as they age and with more food and good conditions, living longer equals larger birds. Of course, I am not qualified to make such wild speculation:-)

  9. oldseadog says:

    John Phillips:

    Climate Change causes everything.

    Potholes in the road, increases in taxation, degredation of roofing tiles, everything.

  10. timg56 says:

    I liked the part about how they looked at several potential causes and discarded them …

    … leaving “It’s climate change.” as the obvious answer. I also noticed the same thing Michael Plamer did – the amazing ability of birds to anticipate events and start to compensate for them before they arrive. Gives a whole new meaning to the term bird brained.

  11. DJ says:

    All they needed to do was read:
    http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/climate-change-is-shrinking-species-research-suggests/

    We all know that climate change makes things hotter, and colder…bigger, and smaller. Climate change also explains conflicting studies and theories.

  12. Bob, Missoula says:

    It has been my impression that almost all global warming studies are either models attempting to prove that yes the earth is heating up and man is responsible or yes the earth is heating up and this is how it will damage, change or eliminate life as we know it.

    Wouldn’t it make sense to state clearly and unequivocally that these strategies are not acceptable and prove nothing. So if the above methods aren’t cutting it what kind of study would? The key thought here is what would work, what would convince the majority of skeptics. Has anyone said this is the only style of study that would really prove once and for all that global warming is catastrophic and yes man is responsible. Why wouldn’t it make sense to challenge the best of the best on the other side tell them here are the parameters, show your work and let’s talk.

    Bob

  13. DocMartyn says:

    diet is the biggest decider of what size the bird will become.
    Different diets favor different gut sizes, a change in the types of crops grown will impose a selection pressure on the species.
    With some diets small birds do well and others, larger ones.

  14. DocWat says:

    In the last 50 years I have gone from 130 pounds to 230 because my “climate’ changed. Why can’t the birds?

  15. Garry says:

    “After testing and discarding a number of other explanations grant applications, Goodman and her colleagues were confident that climate change was AGW grant applications were behind the longer wings and bigger bodies in most of the birds. The birds may be responding to climategrant-related changes in plant AGW grant growth or increased climate variability grant variability in central California, the researchers suggest in the paper.”

    “The fingerprint of climate change AGW grants is showing up in many of our ecosystems,” explains Nat Seavy, research director for the Central Coast at PRBO Conservation Science. “The challenge is to use the long-term data grants we’ve been collecting to understand how, where and why these changes are occurring.”

  16. KnR says:

    Its a reminder that despite everything that has happened the AGW funding bucket is still large and well filled and there are still plenty of people looking to get their snouts in it . There should actual be award for research that makes the silliest link to AGW, as there would be quite a few contenders for this ‘honor’ .

  17. onlyme says:

    I wonder if the changes in the food crops being planted that have taken place in the past 27 to 40 years may have something to do with the noted changes, better grains, more resistant to disease, more nutritious, more abundantly found, could not possibly i guess result in bigger birds, more birds, bigger rats, mice, voles and other prey animals for the carnivorous birds to eat … Nah, it is impossible that could explain this phenomenon even in part.

  18. Nik says:

    There is a Medieval look to the approach that wants everything to be explained via global warming. Like the vapours that were responsible for all ills in the Middle Ages. It is not science, but it is kind of cute. Everyone can join the conversation and be an expert.

  19. J Martin says:

    Julian Flood said ;
    “La La… sorry, California”

    La La Land. Very good. Excellent in fact.

  20. Rational Debate says:

    I’d love to see a good statistician get ahold of this one – McKitrick maybe? While 14,735 birds sounds like a LOT of birds, once you divide by 39 years over which they were caught, that’s all of 377 birds per year – of many different species. The 18K birds over 29 years is a bit better – maybe.

    So, how many birds of each species were caught each year? Can they tell if the bird isn’t fully mature and may not have reached it’s full size yet, both in terms of wingspan and separately weight? If yes, were those not fully mature for both aspects eliminated from the count? If no, were enough of each species caught to be able to statistically overcome the issue of immature birds being counted? Next, how did they account for natural variation in levels of food available for each species? Most animals have a cycle where for some years the species flourishes, then for some years they don’t – all of which has a knock on effect on anything that the species either preys on, or is preyed on by – and vice versa.

    So it sure would be interesting to know just how well they actually accounted for various factors such as these – and to have a really good statistician then evaluate the whole thing as broken down by someone who knows those various factors, and see if there was actually enough to provide statistical significance. (I sure wish research papers weren’t paywalled, so it was easy to at least take a quick look at basic scientific methods issues associated with the research. Ah well, so it goes.)

  21. petermue says:

    What a big step in evolution!
    Frogs getting smaller, so they can hide better from bigger birds!

    Why don’t those $&%#* “scientists” simply say, “We need more $$$ funding!”?

  22. Global warming isn’t causing birds to grow, it’s causing rulers to shrink.

    We’re doooomed!!!

  23. old construction worker says:

    Now we have “obese” birds. That does it. We’ll have to shut down all the fast food joint in California.

  24. I just can’t believe the crap that passes as science these days. AGW has polluted a lot of scientists minds. Evolutionary biology was my study at university, specifically phylogenetics. There is NO WAY these guys can know what the selection pressures are. There are thousands of factors, let alone human caused selection pressures. Did the Galapagos 30 year study not have any impact on these scientists? CHANGE HAPPENS!!! Geeze.

  25. Stephen Skinner says:

    “What’s making the birds bigger?”
    Standing a lot closer will make them bigger.

  26. Baa Humbug says:

    I have 52 years of empirical evidence that chilly weather makes my bird small…brrrrr

  27. Me says:

    [SNIP: Site policy requires a valid e-mail address. Please comply. -REP]

  28. David Larsen says:

    That’s why Eskimoes are 7 feet tall and play basketball in the hood and Africans are all 5 feet tall and live in igloos.

  29. George E. Smith; says:

    This important result proves beyond any reasonable doubt that birds evolved from Amphibians, and not from Reptiles, since both frogs and birds, are now known to grow larger or smaller if temperatures rise or perhaps fall. This study is entirely consistent with such a model.

  30. Latitude says:

    whew….what a relief
    I always wondered why lemmings were so much bigger than capybaras

  31. Tom_R says:

    That extra half a degree can sure work magical results.

  32. alan says:

    Maybe CO2 is good for birds as well as plants! LOL

  33. George E. Smith; says:

    I watched a program on some PBS station from some University zoology department, that was researching how some kind of rat was slowly migrating to higher elevations as humans slowly encroached on their lower elevation habitats. The scientists concluded that global warming was driving the rats to higher elevations. They claimed that the Temperature had risen 5 deg since the 1950s.
    During the program they kept whining about how many species of rats and other such critters had gone extinct down through the years; and they also showed the drawers and drawers of dead rats; hundreds of them that they killed and poked full of wires to stop them rottong and falling apart in the drawers.

    Evidently they did not make the connection between their drawers full of hundreds of dead rats, and presumably similar stocks of dead animals in other university drawers, and the fact that some of those dead rats are now extinct.

    Evidently zoological student killers are a major threat to the survival of some species of rare animals.

    It seems to me that the New Zealand Huia bird, which was noted for the totally different beak designs, for the two sexes, which resulted in totally different diets of the two sexes, likely went extinct in the early 20th century due to ornithologists killing them for samples.

    At least in California, our birds are only getting bigger or smaller.

  34. Larry Fields says:

    oldseadog says:
    October 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm
    John Phillips:
    Climate Change causes everything.
    Potholes in the road, increases in taxation, degredation of roofing tiles, everything.

    You forgot to mention the JFK assassination. /sarc

  35. ikh says:

    Have that stopped teaching that correlation is NOT causation!

    /ikh

  36. JohnWho says:

    So, the CAGW folks said birds would be smaller and now they say they will be bigger?

    Well, this isn’t the first time they’ve attempted to “flip us the bird”, is it?

    :)

  37. Max Hugoson says:

    I’m sorry that NO ONE seems to have caught this one yet. YET another case of the AWG crowd giving us the BIRD. (Apologies to Big Bird and Daffy Duck, both of whom have MORE sense than all the AWG crowd together.)

    [REPLY: Sorry, Max. JohnWho beat you to it by just-that-much (TV reference.) -REP]

  38. Dave Walker says:

    If these are resident birds, then local or regional change should have more impact than Global Climate Change. Can any of you folks with a good connection and know-how pull up a graph of temperature anomalies for some nearby stations from 1971 to now ? How about precip, wind, cloud cover changes, CO2 concentration ?

  39. JohnWho says:

    Max Hugoson says:
    October 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm
    I’m sorry that NO ONE seems to have caught this one yet. YET another case of the AWG crowd giving us the BIRD. (Apologies to Big Bird and Daffy Duck, both of whom have MORE sense than all the AWG crowd together.)

    [REPLY: Sorry, Max. JohnWho beat you to it by just-that-much (TV reference.) -REP]

    I’ll type slower next time, Max.

    We “birds of a feather” need to stick together, as they say.

    :)

  40. James Sexton says:

    This is just another case for the list…..http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm
    Does anyone know if he still updates this or not?

  41. Philip Bradley says:

    birds might get bigger as they store more fat to ride out severe weather events, which are expected to be more common under global climate change

    Jeez. Someone needs to explain to them how Natural Selection works.

    Only past changes in severe weather events can cause birds to get bigger. Not that there is much evidence more severe weather events have been occurring.

    I think the reason birds are getting bigger is a more productive biosphere from increased CO2 levels, And climate change has nothing to do with it.

  42. RoHa says:

    Plagues of giant yellow birds with mad staring eyes!

    We’re doomed!

  43. Arno Arrak says:

    What warming? The data from BEST study they posted on the Berkeley web site shows that there has been no warming whatsoever during the twenty-first century, in agreement with satellite temperature measurements. Muller tried to hide that fact from the press but it still came out thanks to Judith Curry, an honest member of their team. The only warming satellites actually do see is a short spurt that started in 1998, in four years raised global temperature by a third of a degree, and then stopped. It was oceanic, not greenhouse in nature, and is responsible for the very warm first decade of our century. It is this warming that is responsible for any and all observations of temperature-dependent behavior such as migration, obesity, etc.by birds or animals. These effects do not go back beyond 1998 because there was no warming from the end of World War II until 1998 when a super El Nino warmed us up. Any observations to the contrary are simply in error.

  44. Well, the trees are obviously not conforming to the models, why should the birds…

    http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-forests-pace-climate.html

  45. Latitude says:

    Philip Bradley says:
    October 31, 2011 at 5:26 pm
    I think the reason birds are getting bigger is a more productive biosphere from increased CO2 levels, And climate change has nothing to do with it.
    ======================

    ding ding….we have a winner

  46. RichyRoo says:

    ‘birds might get bigger as they store more fat to ride out severe weather events, which are expected to be more common under global climate change.’ hilarious, they think birds read peer reviewed nonsense?
    I suggest that there is likely no real trend, Rational Debate asks some good questions.
    But if there is a real change, it might be because food becomes more abundent in a warmer world.

  47. polistra says:

    “it is also troubling that environmental stressors are pushing and pulling on species in diverse ways…”

    I’ve seen this directly. My roses bloomed this year when the spring rain stopped. The stressors of dry soil and hot sun pushed and pulled on them in diverse ways, causing them to produce seeds in the belief that they would not survive. It’s the end of the world!!!! Even worse, the end of the world happens every year!!!!! Multi-year apocalypse caused by rapid warming!!!!! We’re doomed!!!!

  48. BigWaveDave says:

    Bob, Missoula said:

    “It has been my impression that almost all global warming studies are either models attempting to prove that yes the earth is heating up and man is responsible or yes the earth is heating up and this is how it will damage, change or eliminate life as we know it.

    Wouldn’t it make sense to state clearly and unequivocally that these strategies are not acceptable and prove nothing. So if the above methods aren’t cutting it what kind of study would? The key thought here is what would work, what would convince the majority of skeptics. Has anyone said this is the only style of study that would really prove once and for all that global warming is catastrophic and yes man is responsible. Why wouldn’t it make sense to challenge the best of the best on the other side tell them here are the parameters, show your work and let’s talk.”

    They could start by explaining in physical terms how more atmospheric CO2 would increase temperatures.

  49. doug s says:

    Apparently the scientific method now boils down too, observe something, propose some conjecture, publish results as fact.

    Here is my scientific study. As more AGW research money is available, more studies will proposed AGW as the cause of some marginal change in something.

    I’m willing to bet my study has more validity that this bird bs.

  50. JamesInAustin says:

    Go ask Alice. With apologies in advance to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Grace Slick.
    One degree makes you larger
    One degree makes you small
    The one degree in between
    Don’t do anything at all
    Go ask Alice
    When she is ten feet tall
    I read a paper that said Dodgson wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a critique of the direction that mathematics was being taken at the time. If so he was born too soon, just think what he could create from this material.

  51. Ursus Augustus says:

    Hmmmm. Did they ever consider it might have nothing at all to do with “Climate Change” or climate at all but local ecosystem / environmental change caused by the presence of humans. E.g. lots of pesky scientists bothering the birds so their evolutionary response is to get big enough to frighten the pests away?

  52. Ursus Augustus says:

    Or get small enough to slip under the radar?
    With the Michael Mann’s of the human world getting so much funding I would think downsizing my profile a very rational response.

  53. dwb says:

    what proof is there that its global warming? DDT, and other toxins have been declining in the environment. Sulfur, Nox, DDT, I could probably list a dozen more likely candidates. How were these ruled out?

  54. JJB MKI says:

    Climate change.. Is there anything it can’t do?
    Or
    Man eating birds! It’s so much worse than we thought!
    Or
    Do these people seriously believe their own guff? Do they not roll around on the floor laughing after publishing these kinds of press releases and receiving their grants?
    Or
    Have they ever wondered if larger birds are causing climate change? They could probably show that with the same degree of critical investigation.

  55. I think it was more like, “Hmmm what could be causing this? Well, the only thing that will guarantee us more grant money is if we attribute it to global warming and say we need more study.” Hence, any other cause was rejected because it didn’t guarantee grant money, everyone knows that big oil doesn’t pay nearly as much as as the global warming consortium.

  56. old engineer says:

    ikh says:
    October 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm
    “Have that [sic]stopped teaching that correlation is NOT causation!”
    =============================================================================
    What correlation? Is there anywhere in the paper that shows the temperature change in the area where the birds were? There are lots of weather stations in coastal central California. Did they look at any stations to see how the temperature in the area changed from 1971 to 2010?

    In my field, a paper like this wouldn’t have made it past the first reviewer. While correlation doesn’t prove causation, you can’t propose causation without some correlation. Otherwise it’s just hand waving. But when the journal is called “Global Change Biology.” I guess you don’t get published without blaming Global Warming (oops, for the politically correct, that’s “Climate Change”).

  57. Al Gored says:

    According to my research, turkeys have grown much larger in the last century, increasing most rapidly after WWII – in close correlation with increasing CO2. Turkey farmers have clearly benefited from AGW.

    On the other hand, it appears that AGW has shrunk the size of pigeons in cities where feeding them has been banned. Deniers claim food is the reason but properly published evidence supports the Consensus Conclusion that this shrinkage cannot be explained by natural variation.

  58. Katherine says:

    Birds are getting bigger? How much bigger? They don’t quantify this. Is the increase in size statistically significant? Is the higher number of larger birds observed statistically significant? Did they even consider other possible factors before latching on to global warming: e.g., expanded commercial farming operations, reforestation, more corn for ethanol, “organic” farming, fewer bats due to more windmills, more bird feeders?

  59. AndyG55 says:

    “I think the reason birds are getting bigger is a more productive biosphere from increased CO2 levels, And climate change has nothing to do with it.”

    yesm. CO2 means more growth, and bigger fruit etc.
    Also consider that the world has cut down on other REAL pollutants, that would be a plus as well.

    There are MANY reasons that bird size could be growing, aside from maybe living longer, but the propaganda polluted brain of the researcher went straight for climate change….. go figure.

  60. AndyG55 says:

    “Plagues of giant yellow birds with mad staring eyes! We’re doomed!”

    nah, it will just give the chicken industry a few over-supply issues.

  61. Glenn says:

    I always knew Big Bird would be the end of us all.

  62. Gary Pearse says:

    People are also getting bigger in cerntral Cal and a lot of other places. I’ve spoken to many kind folks feeding wild geese and ducks with horrid glutey, transfatty white bread that neither human nor bird should be eating. Biological sciences have morphed into social science and we all know that when you have to add the descriptive suffix ‘science’ one protesteth too much.

  63. Jer0me says:

    The results were so unexpected, she said, that the findings made them take a step back and look more closely at how climate change could influence body size.

    As opposed to any normal human being, who who immediately look for a real reason for this trend?

    And we are supposed to read things like this every week and still believe in CAGW? How stupid are these people, and how stupid do they think we are, I wonder?

  64. Brian H says:

    If global warming goes too far, we may discover just exactly how closely birds are related to dinosaurs ….

    >8-}

  65. Steve C says:

    Bigger birds and smaller birds … hope someone from Numberwatch is reading this, their Warmlist will need updating.

  66. MrV says:

    Could it be birds are getting bigger for the same reasons the rest of the American populice is getting bigger?

  67. P Wilson says:

    The conclusion based on observable trends is that for the last 50 years TV use has increased worldwide. Therefore, TV transmission rates and magnitudes causes climate change. Its a perfect correlation. As climate change causes birds to grow into pterodactyls, the global TV demand increases over this period causes monster birds.

    In the future we’ll be picked from the sky and eaten unless we stop climate change.

  68. Brian S says:

    So – they want to get rid of Chicken Little do they? No surprises there!

  69. Rational Debate says:

    re: David Larsen says: October 31, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    That’s why Eskimoes are 7 feet tall and play basketball in the hood and Africans are all 5 feet tall and live in igloos.

    Well, yer gonna have to work a skintch harder than that – the shortest people in the world also live in Africa – pigmies. From: http://news.softpedia.com/news/The-Tallest-People-in-the-World-61130.shtml

    Amongst those of pure blood, men have an average height of just 1.45 m (4.34 ft) and women of 1.33 m (4 ft)! But pygmies are not a dwarf variant of the Black Africans. Their heads look large compared to the rest of the body. But otherwise, they are perfectly proportioned (the dwarfs are deformed). They represent an ancient race and only the Khoi-San people (bushmen), now restricted to South Africa, are more ancient amongst current Homo sapiens races, who 50,000 years ago left Africa and reached New Guinea and Philippines, where nowadays pygmies still live.

    Plus, by these ecological rules of thumb, animals in hot climates ought to be not only tall, but skinny – e.g., increased surface area relative to non-surface area to enhance heat transfer and decrease internal heat buildup. So, Giraffes would seem to fix. But tell me just how Elephants can possibly fit? Or Hippos? And since we’ve African & Asian elephants, how could we have had Mammoth too? Mammoth, by these theories, ought to have been a little low to the ground squatty obese thing – but instead they’re pretty much just like thier modern day cousins in terms of size and body shape. ANd how about the ice age Saber tooth Cats?? They don’t ‘fit’ the pattern either. Speaking of big things, only back to Africa – considering that there are big cats there, the cheetah really the only one that seems to fit this mould – skinny, very long legs, tallish for its weight…. Lions being a bit stocky and large for such a hot entironment, right? Tigers even worse so. So why are there also the small cats, servals, caracals, etc? They’re little bitty things with massive oversized springs in the legs. I guess during the little ice age, clearly they must have actually been mouse sized, and its only all the global warming that has let them gain to house cat or slightly larger sized. :0)

    Some time ago, before the last glacial IIRC, man was both taller on average, and had a significantly larger brain. Or perhaps it was during the last ice age, 30000 years ago or so…. So what caused the change? Both for them to be larger then, and us smaller now? Add to it that Neanderthals apparently were about our height, but massively stronger (said “average was stronger than a powerlifter/bodybuilder could likely obtain) AND their brains were about 13% larger too. Meanwhile, Cro-Magnum was even larger brained, over 18% larger than ours, and they were taller to boot. I guess they must have been experiencing some global warming that we were’t…. except, oops, these were all from the same region. Ah what the heck, lets just blame it all on AGW anyhow. /sarc

    Then coming current again, perhaps you can explain the norwegians? Of course the tallest people on earth, on average, are the Norwegians. They stand an average height of the entire population, of 6’1″. The Dutch, and the Danes, are almost as tall at 6′. Americans were once tallest, but we’ve fallen to only 5’10” – must be all that global warming shrinking us, and stretching out the Norwegians & Danish….. except, doh! They live in very very cold climates and ought to be climing into igloos rather than out there playing basketball as they are. Go figure.

    Sooooo, I don’t put much stock in the weather/climate significantly affecting animal sizes – at least not with the very moderate changes that have occurred so far.

  70. Pete in Cumbria UK says:

    Its a bit like a discussion I had recently concerning why birds (gulls, rooks, crows and the like) don’t follow ploughs around UK farmland anymore. (Like they used to do, of course, in the Golden Goode Olde Days of Yore)
    As far as warmsta/lemonheads/greenies can think, its because the naughty and very un-green farmers have ‘killed the soil’ and there are no critters left for the birds to come and eat.
    Its blindingly obvious to anyone with eyes AND a brain in their head that the birds have all decamped to places like BurgerKing/Bigmac etc and supermarket car-parks, city centres and not least, landfill sites where the pickings are much more nutritious & plentiful and don’t move around like ploughs do – the bird has maybe 15 seconds at most to catch a critter behind a plough before said critter hides itself again.
    But no, they endlessly repeat what they’ve been told and that ‘all modern farmers and chemicals are bad’, probably while sipping diet coke in the belief it will lose them some of the weight they’ve put on by eating too much. Sigh.

    One more reason why there isn’t an Olympic sport of ‘Conclusion Leaping’ – the warmista would always walk off with all the medals.

  71. Chuck Nolan says:

    George E. Smith; says:
    October 31, 2011 at 4:43 pm
    ——————————————————-
    The Huia is one of New Zealand’s best-known extinct birds because of this bill shape and its sheer beauty and special place in Māori culture and oral tradition. The bird was regarded by Māori as tapu (sacred), and the wearing of its skin or feathers was reserved for people of high status.

    Looks like the islanders “used” them up.

  72. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    An unduisprtabe fact is global warming causes scientists budgets to get bigger!

  73. Al Gormless says:

    Typical climate ‘study'; Rather than a null hypothesis, they start with the fact that ‘climate change’ (now synonymous in MSM as AGW) is the cause to everything and whatever the outcome of this research they had already earmarked as the cause. Big birds = climage change. Smaller birds = climate change. Same size birds = adapting to climate change!

    Don’t these guys think of anything else “Ah yeah we racked our brains for other explanations but can only think of climate change…”.

    The main interesting finding I can see from this study is that the important keep-someone-busy-on-public-money activity of bird measuring is increasing. I would theorise that this is strongly correlated with the increase in both deceitful lobbying activity and public money being splurged on this ridiculous obsession with trying to claim credit on behalf of the human race for natural variation.

  74. Grant says:

    Fabulous detective work. They, of course, have not a clue if birds are getting bigger or why. God help us! Do these people have nothing to give? Why does this need to be studied? Haven’t they been telling us that spring is coming earlier and earlier? Lord knows those early springs must be tough on birds. Maybe there should be an analysis of bird brains; I’ll get the saw.

  75. John T says:

    “Goodman and her colleagues were confident that climate change was behind the longer wings and bigger bodies in most of the birds.”

    Actually, what she is describing is that the changes are due to habitat change -Anything from food supply to predators to (yes) climate.

    One of the worst aspects of the AGW hysteria is that so many scientists in so many different fields are now suffering from “tunnel vision” when it comes to explaining their data.

  76. Pamela Gray says:

    This one is a no-brainer. But they didn’t design a very good study. Bird size has to do with diet, as has been mentioned above. They should have studied insect emmergence as a function of spring temperatures. We had a COLD late spring. By the end of the summer, our grasshoppers were scarce and tiny this year. Not much food for birds and it took longer to gather the same amount. I would guess that insect emmergence is a far better predictor of bird size than any other proxy. And soil warmth resulting in larger seed heads would predict the same thing. We are just coming off of a warmer oscillation. Throughout that period, I would guess that birds got larger because insects were more abundant and bigger. Over the last 6 years, our grasshoppers have gotten progressively smaller and less abundant. Go back a few more years and we are talking grasshoppers everywhere the size of toy planes!

  77. observa says:

    No no you ornithologists don’t understand the science. Climate change causes more umm…err..climate change-
    http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/climate-change-linked-to-extreme-weather/story-e6frfku0-1226183016551
    Well with all that snow bringing down your power lines so early in the season, you didn’t think it was all about global warming did you?

  78. ferd berple says:

    Jer0me says:
    November 1, 2011 at 1:17 am
    The results were so unexpected, she said, that the findings made them take a step back and look more closely at how climate change could influence body size.

    It has often been observed that animals respond to environmental changes sooner that humans become aware of the change. The most likely explanation for the increase in bird size is that the birds anticipate that the climate will be getting colder in the future. The near record snowfalls in many areas over the last couple of years suggest the bird know quite a bit more than climate scientists about what is to be expected.

  79. observa says:

    Forgot the money quote-
    “But teasing apart the role of natural fluctuations in the weather and rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has proven devilishly difficult for scientists.”
    Well you know those little Devils???

  80. ferd berple says:

    Rational Debate says:
    November 1, 2011 at 3:06 am
    Well, yer gonna have to work a skintch harder than that – the shortest people in the world also live in Africa – pigmies.

    The Chimbu are a tribe of pigmies in Papua New Guinea. They are commonly employed as night watchmen, because of their skills with a bow and arrow. They sit on the roof of your house and put arrows into anyone that tries to come over your wall. This is not something that happens in remote villages. It is common in cities such as Port Moresby and Lae.

    Also in Papua New Guinea are the Buka Islanders, which are a tribe of giants. The men and women are all routinely over 6 feet, with the men approaching 7 feet, yet they are not slender. In color they are purple black with fine features and straight hair. They resemble Persians more than Melanesians.

    There cannot be a greater contrast in size and appearance between two peoples living in such close proximity, separated by just a few miles of water. No doubt the differences are due to climate change.

  81. Rational Debate says:

    re: ferd berple says: November 1, 2011 at 8:10 am

    …There cannot be a greater contrast in size and appearance between two peoples living in such close proximity, separated by just a few miles of water. No doubt the differences are due to climate change.

    I’m certain you’re correct, Ferd. The crucial quesiton is, will these populations be able to migrate fast enough to escape doom as the climate change continues? We cannot be optimistic for their futures, as the island topography limits their furthest possible movements with altitude change as a possible temporary escape. This is particularly true for the pygmies, as their legs are so short they cannot migrate as rapidly as may be needed for survival without further drastic morphological changes to their body sizes. ;-)

  82. Rational Debate says:

    Will major league basketball teams, and top level gymnasts, be forced to migrate as a result of climate change? (sorry, I couldn’t resist!! Wouldn’t you just love to see the paper title appear as peer reviewed somewhere, tho? Just think, it could win an ig-Nobel Prize!! {VBG})

  83. Gail Combs says:

    My study shows a direct link between the number of student loans and scholarships vs idiotic grant wasting papers. By stopping scholarships and loans we could save enough grant money to pay down the national debt.

    Further study is needed send grant money.

  84. John Trigge says:

    “larger birds cause climate change” has the same correlation as their ‘conclusion’.

    This statement <i<“We had the good fortune to find an unexpected result — a gem in research science,” she added. is also interesting. Does she always do ‘research’ thinking that she knows all about the subject of her studies such that she is surprised by an unexpected result?

    Isn’t the point of research to find out something not known previously? If so, one should expect unexpected results, not just reinforcement of preconceived ideas.

  85. Rational Debate says:

    re: John Trigge says: November 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    …Isn’t the point of research to find out something not known previously? If so, one should expect unexpected results, not just reinforcement of preconceived ideas.

    True, but the majority of studies don’t manage to beat the null hypothesis, or at best only add a small increment to what is already known. Null results are probably as valuable as positive results – but they’re not nearly so sexy and so unfortunately don’t often get published. Each, however, is a case of “we suspect xyz about abc, but our hypothesis wasn’t correct.” As such, each informs us what is NOT a good hypothesis regarding abc (assuming a well designed & conducted experiment, of course). That information is hugely valuable in terms of helping us not try re-inventing the wheel – but it’s often lost because journals publish the sexy results, and null results don’t help bring in grant money, enhance reputations, promote careers, etc. So much of the time the researchers don’t even bother writing up the results. It’s a darned shame really, but is also human nature.

  86. Rational Debate says:

    I’ve been meaning to thank both JohnWho says: October 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm and Max Hugoson says: October 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm for the play on words – gave me a grin!

  87. Rational Debate says:

    re: James Sexton says: October 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    This is just another case for the list…..http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm
    Does anyone know if he still updates this or not?

    James, unfortunately I don’t know if it’s still updated or not – but I went ahead and submitted it in case you or others hadn’t already. I included links to this article, the eurekaalert press release (or whatever it’s called!) article, and the wiley listing of the actual article.

  88. bobthortan says:

    The birds body have been shrinking, but their turds are still the same size. This means people will be pooped with dog sized crap when the see a humming bird. This statement is also true if the birds do get bigger in size. Either way, we will need to raise taxes to prevent oversized turds that will damage cars, buildings, and road infrastructure. This will also lead to more use of water to wash the excrement from cars, building and roads. Water is already being overused and will result in more taxes to prevent this. Bigger birds will also breath more raising CO2 levels. You will work for the rest of your lives, but your money will go directly to the government who will provide you with a place you can rest your head after your 80 hour work week.

  89. D. J. Hawkins says:

    Max Hugoson says:
    October 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm
    I’m sorry that NO ONE seems to have caught this one yet. YET another case of the AWG crowd giving us the BIRD. (Apologies to Big Bird and Daffy Duck, both of whom have MORE sense than all the AWG crowd together.)

    [REPLY: Sorry, Max. JohnWho beat you to it by just-that-much (TV reference.) -REP]

    Okay, REP. Try to exercise a little C.O.N.T.R.O.L. and stop trying to Get Smart with your comments. Otherwise there may be total K.A.O.S.

  90. George E. Smith; says:

    “”””” Chuck Nolan says:

    November 1, 2011 at 3:37 am

    George E. Smith; says:
    October 31, 2011 at 4:43 pm
    ——————————————————-
    The Huia is one of New Zealand’s best-known extinct birds because of this bill shape and its sheer beauty and special place in Māori culture and oral tradition. The bird was regarded by Māori as tapu (sacred), and the wearing of its skin or feathers was reserved for people of high status.

    Looks like the islanders “used” them up. “””””

    “”””” the wearing of its skin or feathers was reserved for people of high status. “””””

    In the early years of the 20th century, when the Huia went extinct, there weren’t exactly a whole lot of Maori persons of high status. It was sometimes used in making the Korowai, or sacred cloak, which only chiefs wore.

    As I recall, I have seen precisely one real traditional Korowai, and that in the Auckland war Memorial Museum.

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