Climate change has a drastic impact on the livelihood and sustainability of native bird populations.
Climate change is a topic often at the forefront of discussions within our community due to the impact on lifestyle and livelihoods, now and in the future. A quick google search today will see five articles in our local media regarding climate change, including:
In Australia, “we are observing an increase in the frequency and intensity of these extreme weather events as human-generated greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm our climate. We can see evidence of this warming right across the country. In fact, since records began, Australia’s average temperature has increased by 1.4C, which has led to hotter days and nights in south Brisbane..
Mosquito-borne illnesses do better as the world warms
The science is clear: human activity has warmed the world by about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times. With that comes more extreme and unexpected weather events.
Pacific countries are at the forefront of the climate crisis, suffering from catastrophic cyclones, king tides, increasing salinity in water tables, droughts and the loss of low-lying islands to sea level rise. The 2021 IPCC report found that global heating above 1.5C would be “catastrophic” for Pacific island nations and could lead to the loss of entire countries due to sea-level rise within the century.
Should rising global temperatures bring more frequent and devastating floods, potential home buyers would baulk at paying $30,000 a year in flood insurance, which Ms Hutley said would significantly reduce the value of homes.
In Darwin, an example where there is high humidity, days over 35℃ are considered very hot. In 2004, there were 11 days a year over 35℃. By mid-century, modelling predicts 176 days, and by the end of the century, 288 days.
Five articles, each discussing a different topic on how the rise in our climate’s temperature will impact our community – all reporting the human impact facing Australians.
Let’s now consider the impact on our bird species, who are already facing challenges with their available habitat, including:
- As Humans, we often occupy the best locations for birds;
- We have put much work into modifying our landscape to suit our needs;
- Roosting and feeding for birds are now compressed into much smaller places; and
- Increased competition for feeding, roosting and shelter in smaller native landscapes –other species and predators.
The rise in temperatures across our land will significantly impact bird species regarding health and well-being, breeding, feeding and shelter.
Health and well-being
Considering climate change and specifically rising temperatures, the impact on a bird physically can be immense. The budgerigar, for example, breathes 50 times per minute on an average 30-degree day. As the days get hotter (as predicted by climate change – or indeed with birds migrating into hotter areas of the country for survival ), the number of breathes this species must take per minute in an attempt to keep its body temperature down and sufficient oxygen circulating its body, increases exponentially:
- 40-degree day – 100 breathes per minute
- 42-degree day – 200 breathes per minute
- 43-degree day – 300 breathes per minute
Bird reproduction is often heavily impacted by heat, with embryos having thermal limits, which result in death if too extreme. In high temperatures, birds will often have less interest in breeding, and nesting abandonment and failures common due to a higher risk of hyperthermia and dehydration.
Extreme heat waves or protracted hot weather events often decrease the availability or quality of water for our bird species. The impact of dehydration and hyperthermia results in a lack of ability to source food, which results in a loss of health conditions in birds.
Birds impacted by dehydration or hyperthermia due to high temperatures are at a higher risk of predatory injury or death. Seeking to be lower to the ground to benefit from some cooler relief leaves bird species in compromising positions and often with a reduced ability to respond quickly to predatory presence.
As we continue to consider the impact of climate change on our country, it will be critical to planning to protect our bird (and other) native wildlife by promoting safe havens to support breeding, feeding and shelter.
At the Bird Advocacy Foundation (BAF), we promote better outcomes for our native bird species. We work with a range of partners to drive new initiatives which promote the availability of food, water and shelter for the preservation of our bird wildlife. Our research suggests that many challenges faced between humans and birds can be remedied with proactive planning and the implementation of wildlife support strategies.