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WFAE reporter David Boraks explores how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

New Report Shows Climate Change Will Put Two-Thirds Of North American Birds At Risk

A Wood Thrush bird
Audubon Society
Wood Thrush numbers have declined seriously in recent years.

A new report says two-thirds of North American bird species are at risk of extinction or loss of habitat due to rising global temperatures. The report from the Audubon Society outlines the potential impact if temperatures rise by three different scenarios: 1.5, 2, and 3 degrees Celsius. 

The Audubon Society says that 389 bird species in North America face at least one of their top nine risks caused by climate change. Those results of climate change include early springs, weather conditions that spark fires, or the reduction of habitable land due to urbanization.  

Specifically in North Carolina, the organization has identified 200 species that are at risk. Andrew Hutson, the executive director of Audubon North Carolina, said that includes common birds like the American Goldfinch, Brown-Headed Nuthatch, and the Wood Thrush.

"The Wood Thrush is on track to be declining or completely wiped out from 90% of its range under the worst temperature increase scenario," Hutson said. "And this is due to a combination of things like heavier rain, hotter spring, urbanization. But the good news is that if we hold future temperature increases to sort of lower scenarios, the Wood Thrush’s prospects brighten considerably."

Curtis Smalling, the conservation director of Audubon North Carolina, said the most vulnerable bird species in the state are in the southern Appalachian region in the western part of North Carolina and along the eastern coastline. Those areas are most likely to encounter the climate change disruptions such as rising sea level. 

"So I would say those two areas have a pretty high abundance of the species on this list," Smalling said. "But I really do feel like a lot of the birds people know best, and where most of the people in North Carolina live are also on this list."

Smalling pointed to the American Goldfinch, American Robin, the Gray Catbird, and the Baltimore Oriole as common species that also face varying levels of risk.

The Audubon Society also announced a new interactive web tool to visualize which species will be most affected in different areas. Users can input their location and see which species are at the highest risk in their area, down to the nearest kilometer. You can explore that tool on their website.

And you can read the organization's full report here.

Michael Falero is a radio reporter, currently covering voting and the 2020 election. He previously covered environment and energy for WFAE. Before joining WFAE in 2019, Michael worked as a producer for a number of local news podcasts based in Charlotte and Boston. He's a graduate of the Transom Story Workshop intensive on Cape Cod and UNC Chapel Hill.