Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

March 12, 2010

Contacts: Jim Dubovsky: 303.236.4403;

                Leith Edgar: 303.236.4588;


Secretary Salazar Releases Study Assessing Potential Impacts of Global Climate Change on Bird Populations 


The 2010 State of the Birds Report, which was announced Thursday, focuses attention on how birds and their habitats may be impacted by global climate change. The Report indicated climate change is impacting the birds within the Mountain-Prairie Region (MPR) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and elsewhere across the country.


The MPR consists of eight states: Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Within the Mountain-Prairie Region, species inhabiting several types of habitat could be particularly vulnerable to climate change effects on landscapes.  In the Prairie Pothole Region, the heart of waterfowl breeding abundance and production in the U.S., some climate models suggest that wetlands could experience increased moisture deficits which could result in decreased capacity to support breeding waterfowl and other wetland birds.  Because the Prairie Pothole Region has already lost over 50% of its wetlands to cropland conversion, there is a greater than ever need to conserve the remaining wetlands in order to ameliorate the additional negative impacts from climate change.


In alpine areas of the Region, increased temperatures could reduce habitats needed by white-tailed ptarmigan and rosy-finches, which may disappear from mountaintops.  Advancement of trees and shrubs will narrow or eliminate some current alpine breeding habitats.


Aridlands and grasslands within the Region are predicted to become warmer and drier.  Drought is likely to impact aridland and grassland birds and there is potential for summertime temperatures greater than those they can tolerate.  Areas for grassland birds may become unsuitable due to increased drought, invasive species, and encroachment by woody shrubs.  Prairie grouse and greater sage-grouse will be particularly vulnerable due to their high site fidelity.


“We’re confident this Report will prove an asset to bird conservation efforts by the Service, state fish and wildlife agencies and other Service partners here in the Mountain-Prairie Region,” said Matt Hogan, Assistant Regional Director for Migratory Birds and State Programs. “Knowing the state of each bird species is crucial to proper conservation planning and will allow us to tailor projects to meet the birds’ needs.”


This report follows the first State of the Birds report released last March, which was the first ever comprehensive report on bird populations in the United States and indicated that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other threats.  This year’s report discusses how climate change may be exacerbating problems faced by many of these species, and represents the first comprehensive vulnerability assessment of bird species to global warming across the United States. The report shows that climate changes will have an increasingly disruptive effect on bird species in all habitats.


Birds in every terrestrial and aquatic habitat will be affected by climate change, although individual species in each habitat will likely respond differently. Some bird species will adapt and succeed, others will struggle and some will disappear.


To assess the vulnerability of our nation’s birds to climate change, scientists scored each of more than 800 bird species based on sensitivity to climate change.  Species were categorized as showing high, medium, or low vulnerability.

Oceanic birds are among the most vulnerable species because they don’t raise many young each year, they face challenges from a rapidly changing marine ecosystem, and they nest on islands that may be flooded as sea levels rise. All 67 oceanic bird species, such as petrels and albatrosses, are among the most vulnerable birds in the United States to climate change.


Hawaiian birds such as endangered species Puaiohi and ’Akiapola’au already face multiple threats and are increasingly challenged by mosquito-borne diseases and invasive species as climate change alters their native habitats.


Birds in coastal, arctic/alpine, and grassland habitats, as well as those on Caribbean and other Pacific Islands show intermediate levels of vulnerability.  Most birds in aridlands, wetlands, and forests show relatively low vulnerability to climate change.


The report also offers solutions that illustrate how, by working together, organizations and individuals can have a demonstrable positive impact on birds in the United States. The Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, public/private partnerships for the conservation of birds, and the actions outlined in every State's State Wildlife Action Plan will be important tools as we tackle the additional threats climate change will place on the birds of our nation.


This report and the first U.S. State of the Birds Report are products of an unprecedented partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), state fish and wildlife agencies and bird conservation organizations through a working group of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI). The partnership includes American Bird Conservancy, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, North American Bird Conservation Initiative, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Forest Service and USGS. The working group of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative remains strong and committed to working together on future reports.

The report is available at

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