Birds & Our Changing Climate

Birds are excellent indicators of environmental health, which equals our health.

Of the 588 North American bird species included in a 7 year Audubon study, more than half are likely to be seriously impacted by climate change. Bird migrations are changing time and course.

Sophisticated models indicate that 314 species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080. 142 of which are found in Utah including our state bird-the California gull.

Other Utah species predicted to suffer serious decline are

Bald Eagle, (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Courtesy US FWS
Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Courtesy US FWS

Gadwall (Anas strepera) Courtesy US FWS Gary Kramer, Photographer
Gadwall
(Anas strepera)
Courtesy US FWS
Gary Kramer, Photographer

Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus Courtesy US FWS Tim McCabe, Photographer
Hooded Merganser
(Lophodytes cucullatus)
Courtesy US FWS
Tim McCabe, Photographer

American Avocet, (Recurvirostra americana) Courtesy US FWS
American Avocet
(Recurvirostra americana)
Courtesy US FWS

Yellow-headed Blackbird, (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer
Yellow-headed Blackbird
(Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)
Courtesy US FWS
Dave Menke, Photographer

Rufous Hummingbird, (Selasphorus rufus), Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer
Rufous Hummingbird
(Selasphorus rufus)
Courtesy US FWS
Dave Menke, Photographer
Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) Courtesy Wikimedia.org, Randen Pederson, Photographer, licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike Generic
Bohemian Waxwing
(Bombycilla garrulus)
Courtesy Wikimedia.org
Randen Pederson, Photogr
Licensed under CCA
-Share Alike Generic
Willet, (Tringa semipalmata), Courtesy US FWS, Lee Karney, Photographer
Willet
(Tringa semipalmata)
Courtesy US FWS
Lee Karney, Photographer
American Dipper, (Cinclus mexicanus), Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer
American Dipper
(Cinclus mexicanus)
Courtesy US FWS
Dave Menke, Photographer
Clarks Nutcracker, (Nucifraga columbiana) Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer
Clarks Nutcracker
(Nucifraga columbiana)
Courtesy US FWS
Dave Menke, Photographer
Pinyon Jay, (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus), Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer
Pinyon Jay
(Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)
Courtesy US FWS
Dave Menke, Photographer
Merlin, (Falco columbarius), Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer
Merlin
(Falco columbarius)
Courtesy US FWS
Dave Menke, Photographer
Barrow’s Goldeneye, (Bucephala islandica), Courtesy US FWS, Donna Dewhurst, Photographer
Barrow’s Goldeneye
(Bucephala islandica)
Courtesy US FWS
Donna Dewhurst, Photographer
Wood Duck, (Aix sponsa),Courtesy US FWS, Gary Kramer, Photographer
Wood Duck
(Aix sponsa)
Courtesy US FWS
Gary Kramer, Photographer
Red Crossbill, (Loxia curvirostra), Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer
Red Crossbill
(Loxia curvirostra)
Courtesy US FWS
Dave Menke, Photographer


Preventive Actions to Make a Difference

Climate Change

The planet’s rapidly changing climate has resulted in a much higher frequency of severe weather events in the form of floods, droughts, and fires.

Southwestern Utah has seen several epic floods in recent years resulting in extensive loss of property and life while other parts of our state have suffered from drought

Climate models indicate there will be a 10-15% increase in precipitation levels with different projections between Southern and Northern Utah, but rising temperatures mean this will occur more frequently as rain—leading to less snow accumulation and an earlier snowmelt. Because the snowpack is instrumental in holding water and preventing loss through runoff, less snow and earlier melts could lead to droughts and shortages.

Utah’s average temperature has increased twice as fast as the national average. Impacts include:

  • Reduced snowpack
  • Early spring runoff resulting in loss of late season water availability
  • Change in timing of insect and plant reproductive cycles
  • Changing plant communities and plant range

All of the above can have sever negative consequences for certain bird species, which includes our state bird, the California gull.

Climate Actions to Make a Difference

Top Five Easiest Things to Do to Conserve Energy

  1. Change the filter in your furnace: Keep heating and cooling systems running efficiently.
  2. Eat local and organic, plant a garden. Food production [and delivery] produces 40% of all greenhouse gases.
  3. Change to LED light bulbs: They use far less energy than incandescent bulbs.
  4. Combine trips: Plan your errands to reduce transportation time.
  5. Lower the temperature on your water heater: You’ll still have hot water, but it means the heater uses less energy when you are not using hot water.
  6. Check your car’s tire pressure: Poorly inflated tires waste gas and cause more pollution.

Five Decisions That Will Make the Biggest Difference

  1. Buy a fuel efficient vehicle: Include the fuel economy rating as part of the decision making process.
  2. Buy green power: Go solar with and get credits for your house or your organization, while learning about your impact.
  3. Install a programmable thermostat and weather-proof your home: It takes about 10 minutes to install and allows you to save lots of energy costs when you are not home.
  4. Buy less stuff: Everything we buy creates waste and uses energy both in the manufacturing process and after we use it.
  5. Stand up for what’s right: Advocate for clean energy and the protection of wildlife from global warming.

Water

Water is critical to life, and especially so for many of Utah’s water dependent birds- waterfowl, shorebirds, and waders. More songbirds are found in streamside vegetation than other any habitat type.

Utah is the second driest State, yet we use the second highest amount of water per capita in the United States. Over 80% of the Wasatch Front’s water comes from snowmelt.

Water Use in Utah

Farming and ranching account for about 85% of Utah’s water use. Outdoor lawn watering accounts for another 6 – 8% and indoor use up to 3%.

We could reduce our outdoor water use by at least 25% by implementing the following:

  • Adjust your sprinklers so that they don’t spray sidewalks, gutters and driveways
  • Water your lawn before 10 AM or after 6 PM saves water and money.
  • Native plants and drought-tolerant grass varieties use less water because they are better adapted to our arid climate.
  • Harvest the rain. Water collected by roofs can be used to water gardens and lawns
  • Sprinkle smart. Most residents water twice as much as their lawns need.
  • Replace sprinklers in your garden with a drip irrigation system to apply water directly to the roots where it is needed most. Add mulch to reduce evaporation.

Resources

National Audubon Society
Bridgerland Audubon Society
Utah Rivers Council
American Bird Conservancy
National Wildlife Federation
Why Birds, Bird Education Network
Utah Division of Water Resources: 2009 Residential Water Use
Utah Division of Water Resources: Municipal and Industrial Water Use in Utah
Note: About 65% of Utah’s residential water is used outdoors and 35% indoors.
In terms of total public community use, 60% is used outside and 40% indoors.
SlowTheFlow.org
US EPA Watersense
Weber County; Utah and its Water, Why Conserve?

Sponsors

National Audubon Society
Bridgerland Audubon Society
Willow Park Zoo
Intermountain Bioneers
Bear River Watershed Council
Citizens Climate Lobby