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Bird Migration & Climate Change

September 1, 2016

Climate change could be leading to food shortages for migrating birds.


Neotropical migrants, scarlet tanagers supplement their diet of insects with fruit. (Bmajoros/CC BY 4.0, via Wikipedia, cropped)


A bare cupboard for migrating birds. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Neotropical migrant birds breed in North America in spring and summer, and migrate to Central and South America each fall. At Acadia National Park in Maine, wildlife field biologist Sarah Deckel and a team of volunteers from the group Earthwatch are counting berries and catching and banding birds migrating south, to see if there’s a mismatch that could cause birds to starve before completing their journey.

SARAH DECKEL (Schoodic Institute):

Climate change is in effect and we’re trying to see if this is causing the plants to produce fruit earlier and the birds are migrating later because of these season changes, so that’s our main concern here.


Biologist Richard Feldman is in Yucatan, Mexico, documenting the birds’ arrival and condition. Many neotropical migrant birds are threatened or endangered, and the work will help determine if climate change is contributing to their plight. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon