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Study Shows Climate Change Expands North American Bird Ranges – Media Sounds Alarm

May 29, 2020

By Paul Homewood


Over to you, RSPB!



A newly published study shows North American birds are taking advantage of global warming to expand their ranges northward, without any shrinkage in the southern edge of their North American ranges. Rather than celebrate this good news for birds, climate alarmists and their media puppets are crying “Crisis!”

A Google News search this morning for the term “climate change” shows articles about the new bird-range study are among the top search results. Incredibly, the titles for media articles about the study include, “Migratory Birds Are Failing to Adapt to Climate Change,” “Migratory birds in the Eastern US are struggling to adapt to climate change,” and “National Audubon Society Says Climate Change Is Pushing Bird Boundaries, Community Scientists Confirm.” Saying birds are “struggling” and “failing” to adapt to climate change, or that climate change is “pushing” bird boundaries, are grossly misleading ways to describe the good news of expanding bird ranges.

In the study, wildlife researchers working for the federal government tracked bird ranges during the past 50 years. They published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found:

  • Annual resident bird species (birds that do not migrate) have, as a whole, increased their ranges northward toward the poles without losing any of their southern ranges. That is wonderful news.
  • Birds that migrate within North America have increased their ranges northward toward the poles without losing any of their southern ranges. That is also wonderful news.
  • Birds that migrate to North America from the tropics have had no change in their northern ranges, though their southern range in Third World tropical nations appears to be shrinking. That is not good news.

So, most North American birds have larger ranges today, thanks to global warming. Annual resident birds species and migratory birds within North America have not experienced shrinking southern ranges. The only concerning part of the survey is the subset of birds that winter outside the United States in Third World countries. They appear to have shrinking ranges within those Third World countries. Overall, the findings are quite good news for birds, and should be reported as such.

Even the one subset of the study that might raise concern, declining ranges in Third World nations, is quite a stretch to blame on global warming. If all other bird species, with southern ranges not in Third World nations, see no decline in their southern ranges, why would there be shrinkage of southern ranges only in Third World countries. The answer can likely be found in what the authors of the study explicitly acknowledge – “[T]he primary threats to North American birds are thought to include habitat loss, invasive species, and direct and indirect anthropogenic mortality.” Also, “these threats are likely the primary drivers of declines in North America’s” birds, the authors report.

Habitat loss and other threats to bird species are much greater in tropical Third Would countries than in eco-conscious North America. North American bird range is growing. Birds that spend some of their time in North America and some of their time in Third World nations experience no range shrinkage in their North American ranges but some shrinkage in their Third World ranges. The driving cause for the shrinkage of southern ranges for birds wintering in Third World countries clearly appears to be non-climate pressures on birds and other species in Third World countries. Indeed, the authors themselves note “deforestation and other factors in tropical nations” may be pressuring that subset of birds migrating from tropical nations.

In summary, the new study on climate change and bird ranges is good news. As a general rule, global warming is causing an expansion of bird ranges. To the extent a subset of bird species defies the overall trend, the reason appears to be non-climate pressures in Third World countries. When the media describe the overall good news from the study as birds “struggling,” “failing,” or having their boundaries “pushed” by global warming, it reveals their biased and dishonest agenda.

  1. May 29, 2020 9:06 am

    Great post. Thanks. Yet another case of climate science desperately seeking bad news.

  2. Tafia permalink
    May 29, 2020 9:13 am

    So birdies can detect s change of one degree C over the last 150 years? Impressive.

  3. Ian Magness permalink
    May 29, 2020 9:37 am

    I’m surprised that the authors of this article have attributed any change in bird range to AGW. Why throw the alarmists this bone when you absolutely don’t need to?
    The simple fact is that bird ranges change over time, positively and negatively NESW – always have, always will. You only need to look at old bird books from, say, 50 or 100 years old to see that. Habitat loss (with its less obvious counterpart of specific food supplies) can play a big role, yes, but looking at temperature differences of the order of 1C over generations? Forget it – birds are subject to far greater differences than that night-to-day, month-by-month and every time they fly high or drop to the ground. Further, populations (often scarce) at the northern and southern extent of ranges are especially prone to major fluctuations – UK Dartford warbler populations are illustrative. It would be surprising if notable changes didn’t happen over time in these regions.
    It is often said that you don’t need CO2 concentrations to explain our climate and weather variations. Similarly, you don’t need CO2 concentrations and their supposed temperature effects to explain variations in, for instance, bird and butterfly populations, especially near the edges of their geographic ranges.

    • Gamecock permalink
      May 29, 2020 11:49 am

      Correct. NA temperatures are going down, if anything. Attributing changes in bird distributions to ‘global warming’ is bizarre. NA birds really don’t care what the global mean temperature is.

      • May 29, 2020 12:40 pm

        Really, nothing cares what the global mean temperature is. Plants, for example, “care” about the high and low and that’s it.

    • Broadlands permalink
      May 29, 2020 1:37 pm

      “I’m surprised that the authors of this article have attributed any change in bird range to AGW.”

      They published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You should not be surprised. The current president of the US National Academies is the former Editor of SCIENCE, an avowed AGW proponent. She joins the AAAS in that endeavor. She wrote an editorial in SCIENCE… “Time’s up CO2”.

  4. Gerry, England permalink
    May 29, 2020 10:13 am

    We had the same thing with butterflies where a bullsh*t report said that they were moving northwards. The impression was given that it was a band moving north but of course it wasn’t. The southern extent was staying the same so the butterflies had more space and probably increased in number. I think the report author was Parmeson – very apt for such cheesy junk that was then cited widely.

  5. Mad Mike permalink
    May 29, 2020 12:29 pm

    If the range of non-migratory birds it increasing, unless there are more of them, their population density will be less. This being so the migrating birds in to NA will find less competition for food etc. and probably not feel the need to fly further than they need. Its only conjecture on my part.

    The story illustrates the need to bring drama in to what is arguably a fairly dull piece of news to most people.

  6. Mad Mike permalink
    May 29, 2020 12:34 pm

    On further thought, I can only think that journalists get a bonus from the IPCC for every story they produce where they can introduced/link climate alarm in to it.

    You should give it a go Paul.

  7. Mike Jackson permalink
    May 29, 2020 12:53 pm

    The answer to your question, Ian, is either “because they are activists themselves” or “because if you spend enough of your life rubbing shoulders with eco-nuts some of it rubs off on you”.

    Anyway, it’s only a few birds we’re talking about. They obviously never got the memo and who cares anyway? They’ll mostly die from being hit by turbine blades.

  8. David Virgo permalink
    May 29, 2020 2:09 pm

    I wonder whether the researchers would have got the grant to investigate bird migration if the plan did not include climate change…

  9. Gamecock permalink
    May 29, 2020 4:09 pm

    ‘Migratory behavior and winter geography drive differential range shifts of eastern birds in response to recent climate change’

    No climate in the U.S. has changed in over a hundred years.

    ‘In the study, wildlife researchers working for the federal government tracked bird ranges during the past 50 years.’

    This characterization is an outright lie.

    The Breeding Bird Survey, the only source of such data, is conducted by civilian scientists. The are NOT ‘wildlife researchers working for the federal government.’ It is an insult to say they are.

    ‘They published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.’

    No they didn’t. They published them in the BBS.

    The ‘researchers’ apparently did analysis of the data. Which led to their paper, which was published by PNAS.

    Falsely attributing the source of the data is an outrageous lie.

    Cirrusly, do you think Rushing, Royle, Ziolkowski, and Pardieck have been counting birds for 50 years?

  10. cajwbroomhill permalink
    May 29, 2020 8:00 pm

    The warmists must have got their worrying info from talking avians, giving evidence “strictly fr the birds”
    Next, climate alarmists must canvas the opinions of bats, in the belfry, identified and located by their radar signals!

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