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Birds migrating earlier as temperatures rise

December 30, 2016

By Paul Homewood


h/t AC Osborn




This one was doing the rounds yesterday.

From the BBC:


Migrating birds are arriving at their breeding grounds earlier as global temperatures rise, a study has found.

Birds have reached their summer breeding grounds on average about one day earlier per degree of increasing global temperatures, according to the research by Edinburgh University.

The study looked at hundreds of species across five continents.

It is hoped it will help scientists predict how different species may respond to future environmental change.

Reaching their summer breeding grounds at the wrong time – even by a few days – may cause birds to miss out on maximum availability of vital resources such as food and nesting places.

Late arrival to breeding grounds may, in turn, affect the timing of offspring hatching and their chances of survival.

Long-distance migrants, which are shown to be less responsive to rising temperatures, may suffer most as other birds gain advantage by arriving at breeding grounds ahead of them.

Flowering and breeding

Takuji Usui, of Edinburgh University’s school of biological sciences, said: "Many plant and animal species are altering the timing of activities associated with the start of spring, such as flowering and breeding.

"Now we have detailed insights into how the timing of migration is changing and how this change varies across species.

"These insights may help us predict how well migratory birds keep up with changing conditions on their breeding grounds."

The study examined how various species, which take flight in response to cues such as changing seasonal temperatures and food availability, have altered their behaviour over time and with increasing temperatures.

The researchers examined records of migrating bird species dating back almost 300 years.

The study drew upon records from amateur enthusiasts and scientists, including notes from 19th-century American naturalist Henry David Thoreau.

Species that migrate huge distances – such as the swallow and pied flycatcher – and those with shorter migrations – such as the lapwing and pied wagtail – were included in the research.

The study, published in Journal of Animal Ecology, was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council.


So, let’s get this straight.

One day earlier for each degree of global warming. That means birds are migrating a whole day earlier then during the 19thC.

And we are supposed to be concerned about this?

In fact, given the interannual variability, I simply do not believe that these results have any statistical significance whatsoever. The error margins must dwarf the results.


But here’s the thing. Birds have been adapting to changing climate for millennia. It is not the climate that forces them to do anything. Quite the reverse in fact. Birds will adopt the strategy that is most beneficial for them.

The longer they can stay at their summer breeding grounds, the better it is for them, as it allows more time for them to raise their chicks.


The project was funded by the NERC. Isn’t it time we stopped wasting taxpayers’ money on such rubbish?

  1. Ian Magness permalink
    December 30, 2016 10:53 am

    “Birds have reached their summer breeding grounds on average about one day earlier per degree of increasing global temperatures”
    Yep, as you suggest Paul, totally statistically insignificant, especially when you bring in the natural factors, such as that temperatures, even in the South East, can vary over 40C in any year and spring indicators (eg the emergence of blackthorn blossom) can, and regularly do, vary by over a month year-on-year due to something called “weather”. Yes, this does cause fluctuations in the presence and populations of our flora and fauna and, yes, migratory birds and insects can be especially affected on a short term basis. For the longer term, however, nature finds a way to survive. If it didn’t, myriads of species would have disappeared from the British countryside long before David Attenborough was conceived.
    Sadly, this seems part of a concerted effort this XMas by the likes of the BBC, the RSPB and the National Trust, to wheel out various warmista numpty “experts” to ram home the global warming religion. You wonder if they are just beginning to realise that they are losing the argument.

  2. Cold Englishman permalink
    December 30, 2016 11:19 am

    Rarely switch on BBC, almost unbearable these days, but did see this little gem. At least 5 ‘may’s’ in it, but I also picked up on the 1 degree, nearly choked on my Stilton.
    Each year here in the West Midlands, I endure the House Martins as they nest on my south facing gable, then on one day they are gone – no announcement, nothing, just gone, leaving the annual mess for us to clean. As a child in Kent, I used to watch over a period of days, as the swallows arrived from all over the country and they waited days until the power lines were sagging with their weight, then again, no announcement, just one morning all gone. As a young man, I worked in Nyasaland and Rhodesia, and about September to October I would marvel as the swallows arrived. That is the real environmental story for the BBC to cover, why not show us their journey, now that would be worth watching.

    • Tim Crome permalink
      January 1, 2017 12:15 pm

      And the real hazards small migratory birds face flying across the Mediterranean countries that consider them to be a delicacy.

      Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie …..

  3. December 30, 2016 11:20 am

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “One day earlier for each degree of global warming. That means birds are migrating a whole day earlier than during the 19thC.

    And we are supposed to be concerned about this?”

    Your “climate change” taxes at work. 😂

  4. AlecM permalink
    December 30, 2016 11:25 am

    To demonstrate my faith in the scientific objectivity of the BBC, I have not paid a licence fee for a decade. I do hope that the message eventually sinks into their thick skulls that liars backed by lawyers have a very finite life-span.

    When deluded eugenicist D. Attenborough pops his clogs, I doubt the scam will continue. All pray.

    • December 30, 2016 12:20 pm

      The scam will certainly continue, there is no shortage of Believers eager to take up the cause, especially as they get handsomely rewarded, and now they have to deal with an insurgency producing fake news, can’t think who that refers to …

      • Manfred permalink
        December 31, 2016 8:59 pm

        Little chance that ‘believers’ will find a new religion, though their numbers and influence will steadily diminish to abject irrelevance. As for replacement obsessions, there seem few compelling immediate rivals. Consider the life cycle of phrenology. The British Phrenological Society (founded by Lorenzo Niles Fowler in 1887) was disbanded in 1967.

  5. Gerry, England permalink
    December 30, 2016 11:25 am

    Is it the dying days of the global warming empire we are witnessing before the Donald effect ends it all? A day per degree? Absolute rubbish. People have long written of the migration of birds saying the geese have flown south or north early or late this year by a matter of weeks. Who is going to notice a single day! This is not research; just a complete waste of taxpayers’ money just as it would appear that we are in for lots of referenda over huge council tax rises next year.

    • AlecM permalink
      December 30, 2016 11:33 am

      Yup; it’s fascinating. it took three years for Phlogiston to die. I suspect that once The Donald accedes to power, this IPCC fake fizzicks equivalent will die in a month.

      After all, take away US money from UN pseudoscience and it’ll only be the terminally deluded who will push taxes into the scam, for another month perhaps. Jerry Brown may be a bit of a political wizard, but he will have to operate without the Green Curtain.

  6. December 30, 2016 11:37 am

    Our experience over many years observation is that migrating birds arrive and depart when the wind is blowing to or from a favourable direction. My wife has been observing various indicators of spring for several years on the same plants (first leaf opening, first flower opening (bud burst)) and the dates vary by well over 2 weeks. It is just the way that the weather various from year to year- there is no discernible trend. Everything reported by the BBC is pure propaganda.

    • Joe Public permalink
      December 30, 2016 11:43 am

      I’m a slow typist – was creating comment below before you posted your comment.

  7. Joe Public permalink
    December 30, 2016 11:41 am

    And in the 19thC / early 20thC, how many twitchers could afford the hobby. And coincidentally be in the right place at the right time to spot the rare birds.

    Heck, it’s nearly two years since Aunty reported a plant-spotter blamed global warming for “Unusual number of UK flowers bloom”

    We’re repeatedly told it’s got warmer since then, but strangely there’s been no proclamation of even more plants blooming.

  8. tom0mason permalink
    December 30, 2016 11:49 am

    I absolutely agree, winter migrants are arriving earlier as it is too cold too early in the North, so they head South for the winter.

  9. R G Barton permalink
    December 30, 2016 11:57 am

    What a sheer waste of money. Doubtless Edinburgh has grant to prove this nonsense provided by us taxpayers…
    Dick Barton

  10. HotScot permalink
    December 30, 2016 11:58 am

    “The project was funded by the NERC. Isn’t it time we stopped wasting taxpayers’ money on such rubbish?”

    Meanwhile, in the real world, Critical Care Paramedics are being used as regular ambulance staff to plug the gaps and drag South East Coast ambulance service (Secamb) from special measures. Not that that’s unusual, most Ambulance services across the country are either in special measures or teetering on the brink. At the same time the NHS as a whole only ran up a £2.5Bn deficit this year.

    And we understand that at least £300Bn (at least!) will be devoted to climate mitigation by 2030! By my lousy arithmetic, that’s nearly £19Bn a year for the next 14 years, poured down the gaping maw of opportunists (like alarmist scientists) and windmill companies that seem to be going bust at an alarming rate (or is that just my imagination?).

    Why is it we climate sceptics are the only ones to see this appalling misappropriation of taxpayers money? Am I also correct in thinking that £19Bn a year is roughly equivalent to the £350M a week we are giving to the EU? And whilst I accept we are getting some money back in rebates etc. for that (which costs money to administer in Brussels, naturally. Lot’s of expensive staff in nice offices with spreadsheets) we are still propping up economic basket case EU countries which are going nowhere.

    So just what could we do with more than £700M a week (over £35Bn a year)? We could always employ lot’s of expensive staff in nice offices with spreadsheets, at least they would be paying tax in the UK instead of Brussels!

    • Bill permalink
      January 1, 2017 11:05 pm

      Something else we should be aware of. I live in the country (UK). I am surrounded by so called eco schemes, all of which, have a subsidy attached to them. The developers of these schemes are landed gentry/ farmers sucking on the titty of government aka us. It’s just like medieval times. Those with money and land making more money off the back of the peasants. It needs to stop sooner rather than later, we are all, especially the poorest, supporting these b*****ds. Tithes anyone?

  11. December 30, 2016 1:05 pm

    Takuji Usui, of Edinburgh University’s school of biological sciences, comment made me cringe: “Many plant and animal species are altering the timing of activities associated with the start of spring, such as flowering and breeding.”

    That is teleology, i.e. assigning human thought processes to actions of non-human species and was a real “no-no” when I was in graduate school.

    The species are simply responding to certain environmental triggers. They are not approaching it with any thought process as indicated in Usui’s statement. We had a warm fall here and not surprisingly, many birds stayed around longer. DUH.

    • Singer beneath bridges permalink
      December 30, 2016 2:04 pm

      Can comments about climate scientists and other environmental hoi polloi be considered teleological, i.e. assigning rational thought to the actions and statements of non-rationally thinking individuals?

  12. Malcolm Bell permalink
    December 30, 2016 1:17 pm

    Did my comment not get through or did you block it. If so why, I thought it was supportive of our case.

  13. December 30, 2016 1:51 pm

    Years ago, I watched a special on birds in the Galapagos. It followed the changing shapes of the beeks of the seed-eating birds from season to season as the availability of seeds of various sizes changed and which birds had the highest survival rates. It was designed to show how evolution could occur in a generation or less. Now, I’m sure they’d find some way to blame global warming for all of this. It seems global warming is the death of Darwin’s theory. Nothing evolves anymore, it just dies of a minute temperature change.

  14. CheshireRed permalink
    December 30, 2016 2:07 pm

    A day ‘early’. Simply too stupid for words.

  15. Denis Rancourt permalink
    December 30, 2016 3:03 pm

    It is pathetic how desperate these professional scientists are to fit into the climate change paradigm. Such studies should cause immediate embarrassment to the authors and editors, yet there is no establishment backlash. We live in particularly indoctrinating times.

  16. December 30, 2016 3:10 pm

    ‘Birds have reached their summer breeding grounds on average about one day earlier per degree of increasing global temperatures’

    Horrible global warming crisis just round the corner then. Did the study take leap year days into account 😉

  17. December 30, 2016 3:11 pm

    As it takes a month or so for a swallow to make its journey from South Africa to Europe, how does it know what the weather is going to be like when it eventually arrives?

    • tom0mason permalink
      December 30, 2016 8:05 pm

      And far fewer birds get to breed and embark on the return journey as some of the flock is killed by those windmills.

  18. Singer beneath bridges permalink
    December 30, 2016 3:27 pm

    Mike. That,s actually quite an interesting question. The statistic that birds are arriving a day early is a meaningless average – some species may be arriving several weeks earlier than they used to do and will be dependent upon conditions at their destinations being in advance of what they used to be. Presumably the birds vary their arrivals by speeding up or slowing down dependent on clues received en route. Earlier arrivals therefore are dependent on conditions along their routeways. I recall being told that, in some years, an early spring along the Iberian routeway could have devastating consequences when the birds arrive in a still wintery Britain.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      December 31, 2016 9:24 am

      “devastating consequences when the birds arrive in a still wintery Britain.” That would be those that believe the BBC.

      Actually they are leaving early for Britain because the south isn’t warming, rather the reverse. In Adelaide (when the lights are on) the Jacaranda trees bloomed 3 weeks late because of lower soil temperatures. My agapanthus are flowering a week later than last year, itself much later than usual.
      Oh, sorry…. it was our hottest year EVAH. My god, those flower brains are easily fooled.

  19. Kelvin Vaughan permalink
    December 30, 2016 5:24 pm

    That means when the warming reaches over 100°C the birds will be around all year.

  20. December 30, 2016 6:56 pm

    Unfortunately the beeb didn’t provide a link to the paper. It should be the first thing you learn when becoming a science journalist: always provide a link to the paper.

    I read the article yesterday and assumed that the 1 day per degree was a typo for an actual significant relationship. It isn’t. Looking at the paper (put Usui and Journal of Animal Ecology 2016 in Google Scholar if interested) it is remarkable that there are almost as many birds arriving later in spring as are arriving earlier in spring. That is to say: the effect is not universal among migrants, and occurs in the opposite direction almost as frequently as it does in the “expected” direction.

    To their credit, the authors have archived the data. (It’s a meta-analysis of previously-published material.)

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      December 30, 2016 9:45 pm

      Have you ever read John Brignell on meta-analyses? Let’s say he’s not a fan!

      The first thing you must do is check to see if the data is being used for the purpose it was collected for in the first place. There is a fair chance it wasn’t in which case there is no guarantee of quality and so no guarantee of reliability.

      On the issue, the first swallow arrived here in southern Burgundy two days later than last year and they all upped and left in September 2 which was earlier (not sure how many days exactly) than in 2015. So what does that prove exactly? If anything.

  21. fretslider permalink
    December 30, 2016 7:36 pm

    A couple of nights ago I heard Mary Robinson on the World Service advocating for ‘Climate Justice’

    The BBC is nothing more than a propaganda (aka fake news) outfit. The same tired and hackneyed fallacies are trotted out and there is never a single voice putting another point of view.

    • Bill permalink
      January 1, 2017 11:10 pm

      By the same tired, hackneyed, and dare I say it, ignorant and/or overpaid and don’t care about the truth, journos and presenters.

  22. It doesn't add up... permalink
    December 30, 2016 7:48 pm

    I think we can safely say this one is for the birds…

  23. December 30, 2016 8:39 pm

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    Birds adapt to their environment (and have been our they wouldn’t be here)…who would have thought?

  24. The Old Bloke permalink
    December 30, 2016 8:52 pm

    And to think, just to arrive a day earlier to be chopped up by wind turbines and break their necks on solar panels. Nice.

  25. Athelstan permalink
    December 30, 2016 9:05 pm

    I think the whole article is a crock, in a statement of the bleedin’ obvious birds are instinctive survivors and if they think a few more days of feeding is better in one particular area, they tend to stick around, if the weather takes a turn for the worse – off they go.
    Starlings in cold winters roost in cities and towns, and as we know there are many different sorts of migrating birds, not only varying habits, eating, nesting, but in what that actual specie may travel and where. Birds fly in and out, nesting is slightly different but canny as you like, they nest where the grub is easy to find.

    I’d be fascinated by, helping making a study of birds migratory habits in and out of Britain, I know also that, what a bird does is dependent on the weather and season and these are variables as the birds are sensitive to seasonal, climatic variations and weather anomalies.

    On avian migratory habits in connection to the capricious, endlessly unpredictable vicissitudes of earth’s seasonal variations, and then making any sort of assumption pertaining to such as man made climate change, is as scientific as, tweeting our feathered friends opinion on whose going to win the 4-30 at Uttoxeter.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      December 31, 2016 7:05 pm

      “I know also that, what a bird does is dependent on the weather and season and these are variables as the birds are sensitive to seasonal, climatic variations and weather anomalies”

      There’s another aspect that I’ll bet the Beeb don’t want to discuss – the effect of us humans feeding birds. The Blackcap is normally a summer visitor (like other Warblers) but we’ve seen both a male & female in our garden during winter for several years. What’s the betting that they have decided to avoid the long and dangerous flight to Africa and stay put, thanks to the ample food sources they find in suburbia? In our garden they also have the luxury of a (mains powered) stream to have a bathe in – even first thing on a subzero morning! I know this behaviour isn’t unique, and many other migratory species are “adapting” to changing circumstances.

  26. December 30, 2016 11:47 pm

    UK temp/weather might have little to do with arrival times
    It’s the situation at their winter home that causes them to set off.

    Also some species are hunted in some pit stop places. So birds coming direct dont get shot but birds stopping off do. Soan increase in hunting/hazards would skew average arrival times making them seem earlier.

  27. M E Emberson permalink
    December 31, 2016 9:06 am

    I have consulted the tea leaves and will now predict that next year 2017 we will have a lot of weather.
    Happy New Year from NZ. (New Zealand not Novaya Zemlya)

    • December 31, 2016 10:45 am

      Yes here on east coast the local temp at migration times has little to do with global averages, rather it’s wind direction.
      If that week the wind is coming from the NE it will feel freezing cold.
      – If as strangely common this year it comes from the SW it feels a hell of a lot warmer …. Say 10C.
      So of course birds might be days later in leaving the UK.

  28. Singer beneath bridges permalink
    December 31, 2016 9:30 am

    M.E.Emberson. Tea leaves are inferior to coffee grounds. Mine predicts that 2017 will be one day shorter than 2016, and if this trend continues…… migrating birds will be totally f**ked. Send money and write to the Guardian.

  29. Mike Jackson permalink
    December 31, 2016 10:34 am

    I read an article recently about Sacha Dench who impressed me immensely with the way she was researching the Bewick swan. Google ‘Dench+swan’ and you’ll get a number of hits.

    What was interesting was that she had observed them by strapping a propellor to her back and flying with them. Among other things she discovered that higher temperatures in the Arctic had led to some changes in their migration pattern but that it wasn’t the global warming that was reducing the numbers as much as the fact that no-one had thought to change the dates of the hunting season! Result: more swans were around so more were getting killed.

    I remember wondering where we would be if instead of pontificating from in front of a computer screen or from behind a microphone, the likes of Mann or Hansen or Cox or Schmidt or Trenberth or Cook or Gleick or any of the other supposed experts had done something similar and put themselves at risk to get real data instead of regurgitating their own X-Box theories and passing them off as facts.

    I would give a lot to see Mann strapped to a propellor …

    • Singer beneath bridges permalink
      December 31, 2016 12:05 pm

      “I would give a lot to see Mann strapped to a propellor …”

      Sea-going variety – to find hidden heat?

      • Dave Ward permalink
        December 31, 2016 6:56 pm

        “I would give a lot to see Mann strapped to a propellor”

        Nah… make it a 6MW turbine blade (right at the end). That should send some blood to his brain – perhaps it might start working properly?

  30. Simon Allnutt permalink
    December 31, 2016 3:37 pm

    I live behind Toulon in a valley. Swifts and house martins use the valley to rest and refuel on their migration after or before crossing the Med, depending upon the season. We see them from March to May going North, and September till November going South. They wait for winds and weather before leaving the valley.

    • Athelstan permalink
      December 31, 2016 6:03 pm

      Ah ha! now you’re talking…………

      Hmm, endless possibilities here, and what about Mann strapped to an anometer in the winter – central ice sheet of Antarctic doing some hands tied up in research to find how much “man made warming” he can find down thereabouts…………………….or, on the balmy Western Antarctic shelf/peninsula, arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggghhh!

      “We’re all Doooomed I tell ye!”

      I wish all at the Penn state climactivist department and their friends in; NOAA, NSIDC, GISS, EPA, Woods hole and it’s a long bloody list – a happy new Trump!

  31. Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
    December 31, 2016 9:45 pm

    Interesting study, that shows that birds have more brain than climatologists.
    You could also say that birds dont care about Global Temperature, it doesn’t matter.

  32. KevinS permalink
    December 31, 2016 11:34 pm

    Obviously the robins tweet weather reports to the swifts etc to let them know when to come back north.

  33. January 1, 2017 1:03 am

    Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt? My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move.’

  34. January 1, 2017 9:14 pm

    Are you people nuts, birds migrate early because of the cold not because its warm.

  35. spock2009 permalink
    January 1, 2017 11:01 pm

    Many of our birds died because of the extra cold springs in the last two years. Our robins (actually from the thrush family) have almost completely died out in our area (Eastern Canada). They were once one of our most common birds with many staying all year long (or at least migrating down from northern regions for the winter).

  36. Bill permalink
    January 1, 2017 11:22 pm

    Anyone catch the beeb breakfast ‘news’ article about the ‘decline’ in insects due to wetter/ colder/warmer/cooler etc etc springs etc. Apparently insects decline due to longer and more grass…wtf next. I have a meadow in my garden, it supports bees,birds,frogs, toads,you name it, should I cut it down and tarmac it over to save the planet- as if it (the planet) cares. I don’t know how the people who present this stuff can keep a straight face, maybe they’re just stupid.

  37. January 3, 2017 4:16 am

    No worries, the wind turbines will kill more birds and bats so there will be lots of nesting options.

  38. January 3, 2017 1:08 pm

    Down here in Australia I watched the 7.30 report on the ABC last night there was a segment about a parrot.I think it was called a 36’er due to living above the 36 th parralel.Evidently due to climate change its wing span has increased.The reasoning was because of warming it had to flap faster to keep cool making its wingspan larger eg more excercise.Also this parrot has a yellow ring around its neck and could be getting yellower because of WARMING.However the expert said further research was required.

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