Thursday, February 01, 2007

How quick are we to blame climate change?

This article discusses changes in birds' distribution. Among other things, it says

Is this a tell-tale sign of climate change linked to greenhouse gas emissions, with the cardinal moving north in response to a warming planet?

Or are other factors at play, such as the proliferation of bird feeders in urban yards, which may be enticing species away from their historic ranges?

Such debates are bound to heat up with a draft U.N. report on climate change set for release in Paris on Friday.

It concluded with
The northern cardinal's move into Nova Scotia and a northward thrust by the turkey vulture into southern Maine and Nova Scotia from Massachusetts are some of the shifts which can clearly be seen by looking at maps from the two editions.

The movements are there over short periods of time, suggesting that human induced changes in the environment are the cause. And they are not dramatic, which could point to gradual shifts from rising temperatures.

But the explanation, at least in the cardinal's case, may simply lie in the bird feeders found in Hale's garden and those of her neighbors.
What do you think about the article?


Blogger Mike said...

Sure, it's possible that the proliferation of bird feeders has driven the spread of many of these species, but it cannot account for all of them. The bird feeder that attracted Turkey Vultures would be a frightening construct indeed.

I've been as guilty as the next guy of attributing the spread of titmice and red-bellied woodpeckers to global warming. I hadn't considered factors like invasive species and feeder deployment. But the measurable rise in average annual temperature correlates with the measurable northward expansion of many birds' ranges. We can specualte all we want but it's unwise to discount a connection between these two concrete observations.

While we're on the subject of blame, I'm quick to blame the euphemism-mongers who have you using the value-neutral phrase "climate change" in place of the more accurate "global warming!"

February 01, 2007 12:45 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Uh, that's because "climate change" appeared in the first graf of the quoted material ;)

February 01, 2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

All that I have seen and heard about bird feeding makes one thing clear: Birds are ruled by forces bigger than a bird feeder.
I think the article is playing it safe, and we will have to look at the counts in the future to see a long-term shift. But my personal opinion is that "climate change" is doing something. I also noticed the use of that term instead of Global Warming, not just here, but in the news.
I just hope the birds have a future we can evaluate.

February 01, 2007 7:09 PM  
Blogger John said...

We can argue over the causes for specific species to make the move. Certainly feeder birds have a better chance to survive the winter when many people are putting out seed and suet. But too many species in too many regions have been moving their ranges northward for this to be a coincidence.

By the way, I would be amused to see a vulture feeder. The neighbors of such a thing would probably object, though.

February 01, 2007 9:30 PM  
Blogger birdchick said...

There is not doubt in my mind that certain species have had help expanding their range with bird feeding stations, but there is also the change in mindset that people have changed their planting practices as well. More and more people are trying to make up for the fragmenting of habitat by planting food rich plants for birds to use in late winter.

There are certain species like the cardinal which are not a good argument for how screwed up the weather is getting but there are other species we need to watch like shorebirds and waterfowl which are a much better indicator based on their breeding window and food habits.

February 02, 2007 7:48 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Susan, I wonder if we see "climate change" in more news stories because "global warming" has become a hot-button term that can shut down conversation because it's become polarized and politicized.

John, I'm having fun picturing a large platform feeder that holds roadkill and sits in a birder's back 40.

Sharon, good point about birdscaping and the other groups of birds.

February 02, 2007 9:35 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Sorry about that, Amy!

February 02, 2007 11:41 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

No worries, Mike (c:

February 02, 2007 11:44 AM  

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