There have many articles recently about the effects of our changing climate on animal and bird species in Minnesota. 

In a recent article published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the National Audubon Society reports that by the year 2080, at least 55 species of birds will be extinct in North America if more isn’t done to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Because of its northern location and warming waters, Minnesota is one of the country’s fastest warming states. Even if humans stall global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), several bird species in Minnesota remain threatened, including the trumpeter swan, the spruce grouse and the black-throated green warbler. 

Even our celebrated loons will have a difficult time because the changes in the environment that are critical to their nesting and breeding habits, will force them to go further North. 

An increase of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit is the threshold set by climate scientists to prevent the worst impacts of warming. However, the DNR does report that for now, we are not detecting any decline of those species.

Light pollution is another notable factor in declining bird populations. Nighttime migration is critical to birds as it keeps them safe from predators, and air temperatures are cooler and calmer. They also use the stars and polarized light from the setting sun to set their compass for navigation. 

Light pollution from buildings, street lights, shopping centers, stadiums, car dealerships and other heavily lighted areas can cause birds to circle all night until they become exhausted and eventually collide with buildings. There was a recent report locally about birds crashing into the clear glass at the US Bank Stadium. Ninety percent of those birds were killed from the collisions.

Environmental lead poisoning is another danger to both large and small birds. Large birds like hawks and eagles are poisoned when they eat killed animals containing lead from shot, and smaller birds get lead in their system from taking up soil while eating fallen nuts and grains. 

And even though there is no longer lead in our automobile fuel, it is still present in off-road motorized vehicles like aircraft, racing cars, farm equipment and boat motors. Many older buildings were painted with lead-based paints, and as that paint deteriorates and falls to the ground, it is incorporated into the soil.

So there are lots of reasons to be concerned about the future of our native birds across North America. I, for one, can’t imagine Minnesota without the lovely call of our common loons.

JERRY VITALIS AND DONNA TATTING are Chisago County Master Gardeners. 

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