Forty percent of Pennsylvania's birds are directly threatened by climate change, a new report from the Audubon Society finds. The sweeping paper estimates two-thirds of North American birds are at risk of extinction due to a warming planet.
The ruffed grouse, Pennsylvania's state bird, could move completely out of the state if the planet warms 3 degrees Celsius, which the United Nations predicts will happen this century.
Scientists have found the number of birds in the United States and Canada has declined by 2.9 billion, or 29 percent, in the last 48 years. 90.5 WESA's The Confluence spoke in September to the American Bird Conservancy about the global population decline and what Pittsburgh can do to help. Find the full conversation here.
"Anything that happens to birds, they're an early harbinger," said Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. "These things are going to impact us."
Likely problems for birds will be a disruption of food and nesting resources, and decreased habitat, according to the report. Because of climate change, Bonner said false springs are also a big problem for the commonwealth's avian residents, meaning when it gets warm in early spring and plants start to bloom, and then frost sets in.
"What this means for birds is that plants and the insects that live on them that they're expecting to find when they migrate, aren't there," Bonner said.
The report recommends well-known solutions: cutting greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the habitats of birds. On an individual level, Bonner said people can help birds by growing as many native plants as possible and keeping cats indoors.
"The technology is there, the science is there," Bonner said. "If we do these things, over 75 percent of the birds that are at risk could be helped."