Changes to North Carolina's climate in the coming years could have a devastating effect on its bird population, according to a new report from the Audubon Society.
Rising sea levels at the coast and temperatures across the state could make it hard for native birds — including terns and red-headed woodpeckers — to survive. Audubon's report finds nearly two-thirds of North American birds overall are at risk of extinction if climate trends continue.
In North Carolina, bird habitats could be lost as rising sea levels move the tides inland. And warmer weather can produce “false springs,” which can throw off a bird's natural cycle, says Andrew Hutson, executive director of Audubon North Carolina.
"The state's mountain habitats have seen increasing threats from wildfires," Hutson says. "In the Piedmont forests, certain species of nuthatches and thrushes could be at risk."
He says the loss of bird populations can be seen as trouble for the whole environment.
“The canary in the coal mine is the perfect metaphor for what we're seeing here,” he says. “We look at this as the birds are telling us something, the birds are telling us it's time to act.”
Hutson says bird habitats need to be protected, and carbon pollution needs to be reduced.
At the local level, people can grow more native plants to provide food and places to live for the state's birds.
Audubon's report comes in the wake of another study that found North America has lost more than a quarter of its bird population over the last 50 years.