Birds in eastern North America are picking up the pace along their yearly migratory paths.
The reason, according to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers, is rising temperatures due to climate change.
Using migration information collected in eBird, a citizen science program database containing 10 years' worth of observations from amateur birdwatchers, assistant professor of biology Allen Hurlbert, Ph.D., and his team in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences analyzed when 18 different species of birds arrived at various points across their migration journeys. Since 2002, eBird has collected more than 48 million bird observations from roughly 35,000 contributors.
The study results were published in the journal PLoS ONE on Wednesday (Feb. 22).
Pushing migration earlier in the year could negatively affect birds over the long term, Hurlbert said.
"Timing of bird migration is something critical for the overall health of bird species," he said. "They have to time it right so they can balance arriving on breeding grounds after there's no longer a risk of severe winter conditions. If they get it wrong, they may die or may not produce as many young. A change in migration could begin to contribute to population decline, putting many species at risk for extinction."
To minimize these threats, Hurlbert said he hoped the findings would be used to increase awareness around bird conservation. The outcomes also could help scientists identify which parts of the eastern United States will experience the greatest migration shifts, as well as which species face the largest dangers because they will be least likely to adapt successfully to climate change.
Although eBird only contains a decade of amateur-submitted data, versus several decades of data compiled by select bird observatories, the information it contains provides greater geographic coverage. Hurlbert's team focused on bird species th
|Contact: patric lane|
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill