“As many as 1,000 finches would come at once like a school of fish. They would feed frantically and then fly off,” said Albuequerque biologist Raymond VanBuskirk, 24, and president of the Central New Mexico Audubon Society.
In order for the report to take shape it took four decades of data on the climate and a ton of bird records from the Audobon Christmas Bird Count and U.S Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey. The survey was conducted over seven years, and the study looked at data for 588 bird species. 126 of these species will see a severe decline in population by 2050. An additional 188 species will be affected by 2080.
Carol Beidleman, director of bird conservation for Audubon New Mexico, stated that the report is significant because of its representation of new science and modeling. She continued to say that the study shows how climate change is not just a major threat to the bird population, but a top threat.
But it’s not just the cute songbirds and major pollination contributors that face this threat. From northern New Mexico, the bright blue pinyon will have trouble finding locations to settle down in as their habitats disappear. Game birds, wild turkeys and mallard ducks are all going to see extreme decreases in their population. It’s devastating for the ornithologists.
VanBuskirk has been seeing less than a couple of hundred finches arriving in Sandia, and other birds aren’t showing up as much either. Criticism and concerns regarding the study were also brought up; the study doesn’t account for factors such as oil and gas drilling, wildfires, other things that factor into the decline in bird numbers.
“We do see this downward trend, mostly in songbirds like warblers, flycatchers, some sparrows, Bewick’s wrens, and bluebirds. It is not just climate change and global warming,” said VanBuskirk.”It may also be tied to drought, energy development, feral cat attacks and habitat loss here and in the wintering grounds in Central and South America.”
Moving forwards, VanBuskirk states that it would be preferable to allow the birds some time to relocate. By improving the climate conditions and improving the situation for birds, they would have the time to find a new place to live.
In addition to this, he thinks that the best thing people can do is to change their living habits to accommodate for the birds. Continuing with that, people letting their cats out less and providing shelter and food, birds would have a much better chance at surviving.
“I would love not to have to say to my kids, ‘When I was your age, I was running this amazing project with rosy finches, but unfortunately we couldn’t come together to save that wonderful species.’ ”
(Photo courtesy of John Flannery)