Birds are Taking Flight From Climate Change
In the Snowy Mountains, the Flame Robins are arriving weeks earlier
Noisy Pittas in Queensland no longer need to winter in the lowlands,
spending their entire year in the mountains instead.
In Melbourne, Crested Pigeons are among the many native birds seeking
out new territory as the continent warms, said Mike Weston of Birds
Dr Weston said the birds were unheard of in the Victorian capital 20
years ago. "Now they are one of the most common pigeons."
Dr Weston is part of a research team, led by Dr Lynda Chambers, that
found climate change contributed to changes in the distribution,
breeding behaviour and migratory patterns of more than 40 bird
species. The study is published in the latest issue of Emu, the
journal of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.
Dr Weston said the effect of climate change on birds was easier to
chart in other countries, such as Britain, "where the arrival of the
swallows has been recorded for well over 100 years".
Birds Australia has more than 8000 volunteers monitoring avian
behaviour, but much more research was needed if significant damage to
the ecology from global warming was to be avoided.
"One of the most striking things is how little is known about the
possible impact on Australian birds," Dr Weston said. "Yet climate
change is expected to have profound and complex impacts on virtually
all [bird] species."
Sea surface temperatures in many tropical regions have increased by 1
degree, and abnormally high water temperatures on the Great Barrier
Reef in 2002 led to reduced food supplies for Wedge-tailed
Shearwaters and the loss of more chicks than usual.
On Heard Island, in the Southern Ocean, the number of Black-browed
Albatrosses trebled in the past 50 years. In Antarctica, the recent
decline in Adelie Penguin numbers has been linked to mid-winter
warming and reductions in sea ice.
Flame Robins are among seven out of 11 species whose arrival in the
warmer months in the Snowy Mountains is at least a month earlier than
it was in the 1970s.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 11 April 2005