A newly published study shows North American birds are taking advantage of global warming to expand their ranges northward, without any shrinkage in the southern edge of their North American ranges. Rather than celebrate this good news for birds, climate alarmists and their media puppets are crying “Crisis!”

A Google News search this morning for the term “climate change” shows articles about the new bird-range study are among the top search results. Incredibly, the titles for media articles about the study include, “Migratory Birds Are Failing to Adapt to Climate Change,” “Migratory birds in the Eastern US are struggling to adapt to climate change,” and “National Audubon Society Says Climate Change Is Pushing Bird Boundaries, Community Scientists Confirm.” Saying birds are “struggling” and “failing” to adapt to climate change, or that climate change is “pushing” bird boundaries, are grossly misleading ways to describe the good news of expanding bird ranges.

In the study, wildlife researchers working for the federal government tracked bird ranges during the past 50 years. They published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found:

  • Annual resident bird species (birds that do not migrate) have, as a whole, increased their ranges northward toward the poles without losing any of their southern ranges. That is wonderful news.
  • Birds that migrate within North America have increased their ranges northward toward the poles without losing any of their southern ranges. That is also wonderful news.
  • Birds that migrate to North America from the tropics have had no change in their northern ranges, though their southern range in Third World tropical nations appears to be shrinking. That is not good news.

So, most North American birds have larger ranges today, thanks to global warming. Annual resident birds species and migratory birds within North America have not experienced shrinking southern ranges. The only concerning part of the survey is the subset of birds that winter outside the United States in Third World countries. They appear to have shrinking ranges within those Third World countries. Overall, the findings are quite good news for birds, and should be reported as such.

Even the one subset of the study that might raise concern, declining ranges in Third World nations, is quite a stretch to blame on global warming. If all other bird species, with southern ranges not in Third World nations, see no decline in their southern ranges, why would there be shrinkage of southern ranges only in Third World countries. The answer can likely be found in what the authors of the study explicitly acknowledge – “[T]he primary threats to North American birds are thought to include habitat loss, invasive species, and direct and indirect anthropogenic mortality.” Also, “these threats are likely the primary drivers of declines in North America’s” birds, the authors report.

Habitat loss and other threats to bird species are much greater in tropical Third Would countries than in eco-conscious North America. North American bird range is growing. Birds that spend some of their time in North America and some of their time in Third World nations experience no range shrinkage in their North American ranges but some shrinkage in their Third World ranges. The driving cause for the shrinkage of southern ranges for birds wintering in Third World countries clearly appears to be non-climate pressures on birds and other species in Third World countries. Indeed, the authors themselves note “deforestation and other factors in tropical nations” may be pressuring that subset of birds migrating from tropical nations.

In summary, the new study on climate change and bird ranges is good news. As a general rule, global warming is causing an expansion of bird ranges. To the extent a subset of bird species defies the overall trend, the reason appears to be non-climate pressures in Third World countries. When the media describe the overall good news from the study as birds “struggling,” “failing,” or having their boundaries “pushed” by global warming, it reveals their biased and dishonest agenda.

James Taylor is Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute. Taylor is the former managing editor (2001-2014) of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly publication devoted to sound science and free-market environmentalism.

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