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Mountain West Could Lose Iconic State Birds To Climate Change

Larry Lamsa via Flickr
The mountain bluebird, pictured here, is one of hundreds of species of birds that could lose their habitat due to climate change, according to a new report from the National Audubon Society.

A new report from the National Audubon Society paints a grim picture for the future of North America’s birds. The group says nearly two-thirds of bird species could go extinct due to climate change.

That includes Idaho and Nevada’s state bird, the mountain bluebird and Colorado’s iconic lark bunting.

Both are expected to lose significant amounts of summer habitat if the planet warms by three degrees Celsius. For the mountain bluebird, much of those areas are focused in the western U.S., though significant portions of British Columbia could also be lost as suitable summer habitat.

The lark bunting would also likely have to retreat further north in the summer into the Dakotas, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

These birds could still face problems, even if warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Alison Holloran, the executive director of Audubon Rockies, says we could also lose something else.

“We lose a sense of identity and culture and place. These are birds that we identify with the West and that goes far beyond these birds just flit around,” Holloran said.

Both the mountain bluebird and the lark bunting would be susceptible to increased wildfires and spring heat waves that could endanger baby birds.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is the only way to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. The report says the world would also need to drastically cut other damaging emissions like methane.

If warming is limited to 1.5 degrees, Holloran said nearly 75% of these birds will likely adapt and survive.

“It’s a dire message, but at the same time, it really is a message of hope that there are things that each and every one of us can and should be doing to turn this climate crisis into climate solutions,” she said.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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