Northward Shifts For Wintering North American Birds Identified As Climate Change Indicator

The movement of North American bird species revealed by Audubon's Birds and Climate Change Report in 2009 is one of 24 key indicators included in a new Environmental Protection Agency report showing how climate change impacts Americans' health and environment. 

The Audubon analysis relied on 40 years of citizen-gathered data from the organization's Christmas Bird Count. It found an average northward shift in wintering range of approximately 35 miles for each species studied. While some variation in wintering range is common, the close correlation between the ongoing trend of movement by some 177 species and long-term winter temperature increases led Audubon scientists to conclude that changing climate was a key factor. 

The U.S. EPA report, Climate Change Indicators in the United States, describes birds as "a particularly good indicator of environmental change" for a number of reasons, including seasonal migration patterns. 

"Our research demonstrates how our North American birds, like the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, can help us understand what is going on in the environment around us," said Greg Butcher, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon. "The decision of the EPA to include Audubon's citizen-science findings is both gratifying and a reminder that the birds we see each and every day are giving us important information about the state of our environment. In this case, they're sending an urgent warning that the affects of climate change are here and now – and they demand our attention." 

"Failure to prevent the worst impacts of climate change not only threatens birds, wildlife, and habitat; it jeopardizes people and communities because we all rely upon a healthy environment," said Mike Daulton, Senior Director of Government Relations for Audubon. "The EPA's report underscores the urgent need for action - Congress needs to move quickly to adopt comprehensive climate and energy legislation that will cut our dependence on dirty sources of energy, reduce harmful pollution, create clean energy jobs and grow our economy, and protect our environment. "

For more information about the EPA's Environmental Indicators, visit

For more information about Audubon's Birds and Climate Change visit


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