Audubon Report says Minnesota Bird numbers are threatened

Blaise Keller
Updated: October 14, 2019 06:05 PM
Created: October 14, 2019 06:01 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Bird watchers may have noticed this, along with anyone who's spent time outside, the number of birds across not only the United States but Minnesota continues to be on the decline.

A recent National Audubon Society report looked at climate and found that over the next several decades, several dozen species of birds may no longer be able to call Minnesota home.


"The first bird that really got deep into my senses was a Red-Headed Woodpecker," says current President of the Zumbro Valley Audubon Joel Dunnette.

He recalled when he came across a dead Red-Headed Woodpecker while on his bike as a child and that he became fascinated with birds ever since.

Which is fitting, since he's the current president of the Zumbro Valley Audubon, a chapter of the Minnesota Audubon Society. Sadly, though, the bird that initially got Dunnette fascinated in birds is seeing declining numbers.

Since the 1970s, around 3 billion birds have been lost across the United States. Dunnette says that the decline isn't something most will notice on a day to day basis instead, birds have seen a 1-2% population decline per year. 

"Red-Heads are one of those examples that have gone down and gone down... 80 to 90 percent in my lifetime." 

The recent report by the National Audubon Society looked at how climate change, particularly rising temperatures, could impact bird numbers across the United States.

For Minnesota, the report found that even a 1.5°C increase would make at least 60 species of birds moderately vulnerable. If the temperature increases by 3°C... more than 50 species of birds would become highly vulnerable by the year 2080.

While that is decades away, Joel Dunnette, President of the Zumbro Valley Audubon, says the habitat shift would occur while the temperature change is happening.

"There's a lot of birds who's range shifts are really going to stress them badly," Dunnette says adding that the stress of the habitat change could mean less numbers of that species. Dunnette also says that even though the report focused or, looked at, climate change and how that would affect birds, there's another factor that effects birds too. 

"We don't have as much pasture on our landscape as we did so there are birds like the Meadow Lark and Red Headed Woodpecker who use those who's populations are now down," Dunnette explained.

He says that because of the increased demand in food products, farmers have had to make the change over to row crops which aren't a good habitat for birds or, other animals he says. But he understands the incentive and the pressure farmers have faced to make that switch.

However, it's not all bad news for the birds in the sky. Though grassland birds are the most vulnerable, Dunnette says, there are several species birds that have seen increases to their overall numbers such as the Bald Eagle, Wild Turkey, and Peregrine Falcon. He also says that Minnesotans have already taken steps to slow the decline.

"If you have large areas of property, having grassland areas whether it's grazed or not. If it's grazed moderately, that's good for a lot of birds. And to have the neonicotinoids out on the landscape is hard on the birds... so limiting that use is good too." 

If you'd like more information on how to help birds where you live, you can visit the Zumbro Valley Audubon by clicking here. And if you'd like to read the full National Audubon Society report on how climate could impact bird numbers, you can find that here

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