Shock Climate Science News: '…birds respond to changing conditions in different seasons of the year'

From the FACULTY OF SCIENCE – UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN and the Department of Obvious Science comes this revelation: birds react to changes in seasons, and in many cases they do better in a warmer season than a colder one. I always like to give a boost to citizen science, but I’m not sure the conclusions drawn by the researchers do justice to the effort.

European birdwatchers unravel how birds respond to climate change

Long-distance migrants like the Common Redstart benefit from warmer summers in Europe. CREDIT Mark Hamblin (rspb-images.com)

Long-distance migrants like the Common Redstart benefit from warmer summers in Europe.
CREDIT Mark Hamblin (rspb-images.com)

New details on how birds respond to climate change have been revealed by volunteer bird watchers all over Europe. The information they’ve gathered shows birds respond to changing conditions in different seasons of the year. While some species benefit from these changes, birds that are adapted to colder regions stand to lose. This knowledge can help predict future bird communities in Europe and focus the effort to tackle the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable species.

For example, the study found warmer winters benefit resident birds, such as the Short-toed treecreeper and the Collared Dove, with more productive spring times benefiting short-distance migrants such as the Goldfinch and the Woodlark. Warmer or more productive periods complemented the early or peak breeding season for these birds.

The results are based on an incredibly large dataset from 18 different countries collected by volunteers and published in Global Change Biology led by the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, together with BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council.

“We found benefits from conditions observed under climate change for both resident birds, short-distance migrants and long distance-migrants, but at very different times of the year that complement their breeding season. So if we are to predict what the future bird community may look like in Europe, we need to understand how the conditions during breeding will change” says lead-author and Postdoctoral Researcher Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, who conducted the research from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate.

However, the positive effects mentioned above do not extend to species adapted to the colder regions in Europe, such as the resident birds House Sparrow and Carrion Crow and the short-distance migrants Meadow Pipit and Redpoll. They have become relatively less abundant under the respective conditions.

Birds arriving to Europe from furthest away (and therefore later in the year), such as long-distance migrants the Northern Wheatear and Common Redstart, generally benefit from warmer summers in Europe. As a group, however, they showed one of the most complex responses as they are also impacted by climate change in Africa.

The results were generated with yearly data on 51 different bird species gathered by around 50,000 volunteers in 18 different European countries between 1990 to 2008.

“This study shows the power of citizen science where highly skilled volunteers collect invaluable data and help to unlock new discoveries”, says Head of Species Monitoring and Research, Richard Gregory from the RSPB.

Global Science Coordinator for Programmes at BirdLife International, Ian Burfield, says: “Of course climate change will favour some species, but studies suggest we will have more losers than winners. That is why the BirdLife Partnership is actively delivering mitigation and adaptation solutions.”

Unfortunately, the study also shows the widespread long-term effects of agricultural intensification in Europe, where farmland birds continue to be in decline. It found long-distance migrants may be particularly vulnerable to the combination of agricultural intensification and climate change.

“Long-distance migrants are already believed to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, as they experience impacts in multiple locations along their busy travel routes that stretch two continents. We found that long-distance migrants in particular were in decline in countries with intensive agriculture expressed through high cereal yields. Our results suggest that we should take action to protect long-distance migrant birds in countries with the most intensified agriculture” says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen.

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68 thoughts on “Shock Climate Science News: '…birds respond to changing conditions in different seasons of the year'

  1. Definitely needs a lot more study.
    Please provide details of where further grants can be obtained as a matter or urgency.

  2. Short-toed treecreeper? Is that any relation to the Zero brain treehugger? Or perhaps with the increased CO2, and the resulting increase in tree growth there will be an evolution toward the log-toed treecreeper.
    Inquiring minds want to know.
    I believe in forest conservation as much as the next guy, but let us at lease have science happening.

  3. So nothing to do with more intensive farming, more monoculture and more species-targeting insecticides and herbicides.

    • Or being chopped up by windmills or eaten by the increase in the numbers of raptors that the RSPB are so fond of?

  4. From the article

    We found benefits from conditions observed under climate change […]

    There’s that climate change thingie again. Whatever do they mean?
    Are there any recent reports of the areas under study having their Koppen Climate classification changed?
    http://meteorologyclimate.com/koppenclassification.htm
    If not, I think they should stick to referring to seasonal variability.
    —————————————————–
    I did find their observations on farming intensification interesting.(whatever that means. What… farmers sit on their tractors longer?) In my neck of the woods, smaller farms have sold out to make much, much bigger farms. We’ve had a decline in pheasants because of the reduction in tree lines and hedgerows separating the smaller plots. On the bright side, some of the smaller farms not bought up and no longer farmed are returning to forest and wild meadow which, for example, is helping the Eastern Bluebird and wild turkey populations. Oh, and the pheasants a bit.

    • BTW–Killington Ski Area in VT just opened for the season, earliest EVER! Last year’s New England ski season was the LONGEST and most profitable EVER. So now you know, Global Warming means more skiing, longer! 😉

      • The CAGW proponents suggested in the 1980’s that all ski resorts in Scotland be closed as there would never again be enough snow to make them viable.
        Reality check from the Daily Telegraph last year
        “Thousands flock to Scotland’s ski slopes for ‘fantastic’ conditions”

      • “If Leftist Loons went quietly extinct…”
        I applaud and encourage my liberal co-worker for “saving the planet” by not procreating. Leaves more evil carbon and red meat for my kids/grandkids.

  5. Which is the more difficult problem to solve, farming intensity or climate change? Remember that very old Star Trek episode (’67?) where the lottery “winners” were willfully lined up to go into disintegration chambers?

  6. . . .warmer winters benefit resident birds, such as the . . . the Collared Dove
    These have found their way to central Washington State. Here’s hoping for a series of very cold winters!

    • I was watching Seattle news last night and I was informed that the wonderfull weather that Seattle experienced this year is a sign of the future and Seattle would be inundated with migrants, though this might not happen for a few decades, and this would be bad because moving is socially disruptive.
      Also the president of Ireland was going to give a talk about climate change at Washington university.

  7. The numbers of birds may be excellent data — but to so blithely assign a simplistic desired reason for those numbers is absurd.
    Obviously they went looking for the effects of climate change — so any changes they found in the numbers they precipitously assigned to climate change. (This is IPCC reasoning. Basically the UN panel is mandated to prove global warning exists and everything they report must show that. They can’t report negative stuff.)
    The road to bad science
    Is paved with political intentions
    Eugene WR Gallun

  8. Bird behavior is always dependent on weather, see the Migration Forecasts at http://birdcast.info/forecasts/
    Habitat and food source are far more critical. Birds also adapt to food source, since that also changes with the weather. Here’s an example:
    https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/clarks-nutcrackers-and-the-trees-they-depend-on/
    There are also frequent rare bird sightings during weather events such as El Nino and hurricanes.
    Perhaps so-called climate scientists should hang out with birders more often. They have REAL data. See eBird.org.

  9. So does that mean all these bloody Canada Geese will be gone from my golf course in 2100AD? Any chance of getting rid of them earlier by “adjusting” the temperatures?

    • They are quite edible. Split the skin at the breast, peel it back to expose the edible parts, no need to bother with any feathers or guts. Leave the carcass in the woods for the raccoons to nibble on.

    • Before Europe was filled with these N. American imports, (turkey I believe they are called), goose was the preferred main item on the European Christmas Dinner menu.
      Maybe you could eat them.
      If you improved your swing and direction, you might even save on ammunition.

      • It used to be goose for Christmas in N.America until turkey farms became so numerous.
        Geese were raised for down and meat.

  10. re. However, the positive effects mentioned above do not extend to species adapted to the colder regions in Europe, such as the resident birds House Sparrow….
    Accoding to nzbirdsonline.org.nz
    One of the world’s most successful introduced species, the house sparrow is found from sub-Arctic to sub-Tropical regions everywhere, except Western Australia and some small islands. It lives mostly in close association with man. This original statement seems to be contrary to the facts.

    • The researchers don’t really seem to know what they’re talking about, do they? Describing house sparrows as a species adapted to colder regions, one that would be threatened by warming, seems the height of ignorance. According to Wiki (yes, not the most reliable source, but surely house sparrows aren’t a controversial topic):
      “The house sparrow originated in the Middle East and spread, along with agriculture, to most of Eurasia and parts of North Africa.[68] Since the mid-nineteenth century, it has reached most of the world, chiefly due to deliberate introductions, but also through natural and shipborne dispersal.[69] Its introduced range encompasses most of North America, Central America, southern South America, southern Africa, part of West Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and islands throughout the world.[70] It has greatly extended its range in northern Eurasia since the 1850s,[71] and continues to do so, as was shown by the colonisations around 1990 of Iceland and Rishiri Island, Japan.[72] The extent of its range makes it the most widely distributed wild bird on the planet.[70]”

      • There are scads of these things in cities like Philadelphia, permanent residents.
        This species is one of the jackpot winners of human civilization’s protective blanket.

  11. Birds do better when there is more CO2 in the air. More CO2 means more plants and seeds, more larva and bugs to eat. More CO2 is not Carbon Pollution, it feeds the ecosystem.
    CO2, the life-giving gas, not “Carbon Pollution”. A Limerick – and explanation.
    What then is this “Carbon Pollution”?
    A sinister, evil collusion?
    CO2, it is clean,
    Makes for growth, makes it green,
    A transfer of wealth, a solution.
    http://lenbilen.com/2014/02/22/co2-the-life-giving-gas-not-carbon-pollution-a-limerick-and-explanation/

  12. What about factoring in the fact that the Hairy Chested Nutscratcher and the Rosy Breasted Tit Pinch are being selectively extirpated by windmills and reflected-solar furnaces, eh? From an earlier thread it was found that getting hit on the head with a windmill rotor was affecting fertility of bald eagles, too.

  13. Not that they have to worry a lot about bird populations in Europe after the windmills get through with them…

  14. Seasons are nature’s catastrophic chaotic climate change. Fortunately, the variability and diversity is tolerable, and both flora and fauna have learned to adapt.
    As for the windmill gauntlet, its impact on the environment from gray to black throughout its evolution from recovery to reclamation. It is a low-density, disruptive, unreliable technology for extracting energy from “green” drivers that is only suitable for niche applications.

  15. If more than half the temperature rise since the late 1800’s happened before most people around today were alive, what are they observing that they can claim is caused by climate change, and to what degree is the small percent of human-driven (suspected) climate change do they assign to their observations?
    I doubt they have honest answers and there’s not a word of their findings I believe.

  16. Well, it’s interesting as far as it goes, which isn’t too far with just 18 years worth of “yearly data” of uncertain quality.
    According to Wikipedia, the Common redstart diverged from the black redstart group about 3 million years ago. I’d say it’s a tad premature to draw very many conclusions after just 18 years.

  17. “We found benefits from conditions observed under climate change for both resident birds, short-distance migrants and long distance-migrants”
    “The Northern Wheatear and Common Redstart, generally benefit from warmer summers in Europe” “they are also impacted by climate change in Africa”
    “We found benefits from conditions observed under climate change for both resident birds, short-distance migrants and long distance-migrants,”
    I wonder what ‘Climate Change’ they are talking about, and how they came to such conclusions?
    “So if we are to predict what the future bird community may look like in Europe, we need to understand how the conditions during breeding will change”
    Why do we need to predict what the future bird community may look like in Europe when we don’t have a cat-in-hell’s chance of doing anything about it?
    ” Our results suggest that we should take action to protect long-distance migrant birds in countries with the most intensified agriculture” says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen.”
    The clever bit here is to suggest that action needs to be taken without giving any indication whatsoever as to what that action might be. I presume these people have some intelligence and know quite well that there is no possible action that anyone can take to change the direction of bird life across Europe and Africa in the future, and why should there be. But let’s put the scarry stuff in to justify our research costs.
    A seemingly utter waste of research money that could be spent so much more usefully on serious subjects that really do offer benefits to society across the World.

  18. So why are long-distance migrants particularly vulnerable to climate change, as they experience impacts in multiple locations along their busy travel routes that stretch two continents? Don’t resident and short-distance migrants experience impacts year round at whatever location they are in just like long-distance migrants? Why would experience changes at location A for part of the year and location B for part of the year be worse than experiencing changes at location A for the whole year?
    Also they say that the long-distance migrants were in decline in countries with intensive agriculture expressed through high cereal yields and they suggest that we should take action to protect long-distance migrant birds in countries with the most intensified agriculture. Wouldn’t that lead to a logical conclusion that the major problem is caused by land use changes rather than climate change?
    And as to the fact that changes are allowing some species to expand while others contract is what has been happening in nature for billions of years isn’t it? I mean it is the basis of evolution, species that are best adapted for conditions (whether static or changing) expand at the expense of other species.
    What is the ‘correct’ or ‘optimum’ mix of species? Is it the mix that existed in 1800? Or maybe in 1900? Or maybe nature ‘figures out’ the optimum mix for the conditions at any given time? It is a similar question to the question of what the ‘correct’ or ‘normal’ climate is, and both questions are inane with no real answers.

  19. It’s not a typing error, he really does not know how to spell.

    “We found that long-distance migrants in particular were in decline in countries with intensive agriculture expressed through high cereal yields. Our results suggest that we should take action to protect long-distance migrant birds in countries with the most intensified agriculture” says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen.

    So I don’t see where the evidence of a negative climate effect is here. Of course we always have to add the obligatory genuflection to ensure +1 on the published papers and citations stats
    What it seems is really found by this study is the overall beneficial effect of a slight warming. We would not want to make too much of that in the abstract thought would we.
    Once again our host gives us a press release without a ref to the paper. Something he is always critical of. Not even a ref to the press release.
    Reference:
    Jørgensen et al. (2015): Continental-scale global change attribution in European birds – combining annual and decadal time scales. Global Change Biology, doi: 10.1111/gcb.13097
    http://news.ku.dk/all_news/2015/10/european-birdwatchers-unravel-how-birds-respond-to-climate-change/

  20. Who knew that birds adapt and migrate based on environment. Who knew that all species adapt to changing environments or fade away. I mean this has only been going on since life began on earth, no reason to think it should continue to occur. Apparently we no longer should allow change causing change.
    I think the issue is fear. Fear motivates people politically and financially. Maybe “Climate Change” is better termed “Change Fear”.

  21. Long-distance migrants are already believed to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, as they experience impacts in multiple locations along their busy travel routes that stretch two continents. We found that long-distance migrants in particular were in decline in countries with intensive agriculture expressed through high cereal yields. Our results suggest that we should take action to protect long-distance migrant birds in countries with the most intensified agriculture” says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen.

    Conclusions of a study, such as above ….. that were based in/on what volunteer bird watchers in 18 different European countries thought they were “seeing” …… is utterly silly to say the least.
    The noted decline in migratory birds … in areas of “intensive agriculture”, …. especially “high cereal yield agriculture” ….. has nothing whatsoever to do with weather or climate change ……. but everything to do with the greatly inhanced efficiency of the harvesting equipment/machinery that is now being used/employed by agriculture producers/farmers.
    There is no “Free Lunch” left in the fields for those migrating birds to dine upon. And no “Free Lunch” means population decline.
    The same/similar ….. “no Free Lunch” is true for the decline in “songbird” populations here in the US. Small family farms, family gardens and backyard fruit trees, berry vines and bushes have been in drastic decline for the past 40 years or so.

  22. I think it is a good project to collect all these data. It is valuable in itself.
    The problem starts when they try to draw any conclusions of the data. There are so many conditions that influences the bird populations at various times in various parts of the world, that any conclusion could be valid or plain wrong.

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