Climate change is a global problem. It's sometimes called global warming because temperatures are rising across the entire planet. But it won’t affects birds the same way everywhere. Birds that live near the ocean are likely harmed by sea-level rise. Birds that nest in drier areas in the western United States are likely to experience more wildfire. And birds that nest in the Arctic, where they hunt in the ocean for ice-loving fish, are already being affected by melting sea ice.
Also, not all birds that live in the same place will be affected the same way. A bird’s vulnerability to climate change depends on its adaptations—the characteristics or behaviors that help it survive in its particular habitat. Some bird species can survive just about anywhere. They are comfortable in a range of temperatures and can eat all different kinds of foods. These birds are likely to be okay when the climate changes. But other birds like very specific foods and can live only in specific places. The Saltmarsh Sparrow, for examples, nests in saltmarshes along the Atlantic coast. If those marshes are flooded by sea-level rise, Saltmarsh Sparrows don’t have other salt marshes to move into. Other birds, including ones that live near you, might be forced to leave your area if your local climate (like its temperature or the amount of rain it receives) changes too much.
Birds are amazing animals. They have feathers, they can fly, and they sing. There are nearly 10,000 different kinds of birds in the world. They’re beautiful and fun to watch. They also keep our world healthy. They spread seeds, plant forests, pollinate flowers, eat pests, and generally keep ecosystems healthy. An ecosystem is a community of plants and animals interacting with each other. We need healthy ecosystems to grow our food, catch fish, and have clean air and water—and so much more. They give us everything we have, and they make us who we are. If we protect birds, we protect our ecosystems and ourselves, too.
That’s why it’s so important to do everything we can to stop climate change. To do that, we need to make some big changes to the way we generate electricity. We can also make changes at home. We have to tell our family and friends about climate change and why we need to address it to protect birds and people. We have to join together as a climate party and get everyone to pitch in.
Start by finding out which birds near you could use your help. In this activity, you’ll use Audubon’s Birds and Climate Visualizer to learn about a climate-threatened bird from your area. (Hint: You don't need to enter your email address.)
If you have a printer, print this PDF worksheet created by educators at the Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton, Maryland. If you do not have a printer, open the PDF and write the answers to the questions on a separate piece of paper. The worksheet will lead you to learn about a bird in your area and how climate change will affect it. Then, learn about different actions you can take to help it and share what you know with friends and family.
You’ll need these links:
Audubon’s Survival by Degrees Site: climate.audubon.org
Audubon’s Climate Action Guide: audubon.org/climate-action-guide
Pickering Creek Audubon Center offers classroom and field-based educational programing for students from pre-K through high school. Pickering Creek educators lead lessons focused on birds, local wildlife and ecology, climate change and environmental stewardship. Climate change is a central theme in the Center's programming for 4th grade, 6th grade, and high school students.