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How will climate change affect birds? Find out Sunday

03/11/2017 6:00 AM |

What if the bald eagle couldn’t roost in America? What if the Baltimore oriole couldn’t live in Baltimore anymore?

These possibilities, along with more “dire” predictions, are included in the National Audubon Society’s 2014 report about the effects of climate change on bird species.

According to the report — which will be detailed in a talk this Sunday, March 12, at 2 p.m. in the Peconic Community Center in Peconic — more than half of all bird species surveyed in North America may be threatened by changing habitats.

And the threat to birds posed by climate change is an indication of far more worrisome implications of a warming planet, said Lynsy Smithson-Stanley, deputy director of climate and strategic initiatives for the National Audubon Society.

“We know if the birds are in trouble, the complexity and the interrelations [of the ecosystem] are also in trouble,” she said.

Ms. Smithson-Stanley has been presenting the results of the survey to groups for the past three years and will be the first person from the organization’s national level to speak on the North Fork, according to North Fork Audubon Society publicity chair Rick Kedenburg.

“It’s to get the community more aware of global climate change,” he said.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s global climate change initiative, the Northeast has already experienced a greater increase in extreme precipitation than any other region in the U.S. And in 2016, worldwide surface temperatures were 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit above the average from the late 19th century, NASA stated, making it the warmest year on record.

While 1.7 degrees may seem like a small number, even incremental changes in global temperature can have major effects. Average temperatures during the Ice Age — when Long Island was buried under glaciers of ice — were around 10 degrees colder than today.

Ms. Smithson-Stanley said the Audubon Society’s in-depth survey took seven years to complete. It maps various projected climate changes against survey results and birdwatching counts for species across North America.

Each species, she said, has unique requirements for temperature, rainfall and other factors in order to thrive. But climate change will force some of them out of their habitats as those factors change. By 2080, many ranges of many species will be narrowed or moved to new areas, where they may become threatened.

“Birds can fly but trees can’t,” Ms. Smithson-Stanley said.

At-risk birds include the scarlet tanager, a red and black songbird that summers in New York State. If climate change isn’t addressed, Ms. Smithson-Stanley said, the bird will have “very little” available habitats in the state. The wood thresh could lose up to 82 percent of its current range as well, she said.

At Sunday’s event, Ms. Smithson-Stanley plans to explain what residents can do to reduce their carbon emissions and make it easier for birds to survive, like planting native plants. Among the easiest steps, she said, is simply talking to others about the importance of fighting climate change.

“People are really highly influenced by their friends’ perceptions of climate change,” she said. “We’ve been able to de-politicize some of that by connecting it with birds.”

Editor’s note: The event is scheduled for Sunday, March 12, at 2 p.m. in the Peconic Community Center located at 1170 Peconic Lane in Peconic. The incorrect address was listed in Thursday’s announcements.

psquire@timesreview.com

Photo caption: The summer range of the scarlet tanager, a songbird that now spends that season in the New York area, may move away from Long Island due to shifting climate change. (Flickr Creative Commons/Matt Stratmoen photo)

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