Birds

Climate change is devastating one iconic east coast bird species

Hal Beral/Corbis/Getty Images

Shutterstock

While humans can detach themselves from the natural rhythms of seasons and sunlight, plants and animals cannot.

Shutterstock

Scientists recently discovered that the breeding cycles of a population of tree swallows in Ithaca, New York, are becoming out of sync with when their food, flying insects, becomes available. And this conflict is due to climate change.

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Because higher temperatures are occurring earlier in the spring, tree swallow chicks are hatching sooner on average now compared with 30 years ago, a new paper reports.

The researchers used 30 years of observations of the Ithaca, New York population of tree swallows to study the relationship between breeding and climate.

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Shutterstock

But bad weather is more common earlier in the spring, so because they’re hatching earlier, tree swallow chicks are less likely to survive.

Shutterstock

Even a single inclement weather event, like a storm, can reduce a chick’s chance of survival by 50 percent, the researchers report.

Inclement weather also affects the availability of the insects the baby swallows depend on.

Shutterstock

Flying insects tend to congregate more in warm weather, so even though spring temperatures are becoming warmer earlier, the warm weather isn’t necessarily consistent.

Shutterstock

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Moment/Getty Images

“Our results raise the possibility that animals relying on food resources that can rapidly change in abundance due to the weather may be particularly at risk to climate change,” says lead author Ryan Shipley, in a statement.

And with insect populations in decline globally for other climate-change-related reasons, tree swallows and other birds that depend on flying insects are losing a vital food source.

picture alliance/picture alliance/Getty Images

Read more animal stories here.

Shutterstock

Share