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Little Birdie Responds to Climate Change

April 8, 2010

Spring is here and it’s really beautiful to see the nature at it’s best. Spring knocked on my window a couple of weeks back at 4 AM when I could hear birds chirping outside my window. It’s beautiful to listen to them, but to enjoy them fully, you need to proper sleep first. For a person like me who sleeps at 2 AM, it’s a bit too early to enjoy the music at 4  AM. Spring is here and birds who have migrated back are going to stay for few months (or maybe even longer, read below) and I should rather enjoy the nature’s sound rather than complain about it. So, I am trying to change my sleeping pattern and sleep early, let’s see how this goes. Anyway let’s get to the main issue.

Migration of birds is a very interesting phenomenon which helps birds to cope up with changing weather conditions and food availability situations. Migratory birds travel to long distances which can be stressful as well as dangerous, but advantages offered by migration usually offsets these disadvantages. But Climate changes are making these birds to rethink their strategy and look for other viable options. A very recent study by Peter Berthold have shown that birds are changing their migration pattern in response to rise in temperatures and rapid climate changes by reducing their migration activity and moving very close to their breeding areas in winters rather than traveling hundreds and thousands of miles. This way they can conserve their energy and spend it on mating and eating.  According to abstract of this paper “Our findings suggest that current alterations of the environment are favoring birds wintering closer to the breeding grounds and that populations of migratory birds have strongly responded to these changes in selection. The reduction of migratory activity is probably an important evolutionary process in the adaptation of migratory birds to climate change, because it reduces migration costs and facilitates the rapid adjustment to the shifts in the timing of food availability during reproduction.” Changing of migration patterns can have overall large scale ecological impacts which I will try to post after discussing with my friend Vishwesha who is a physicist/ecologist at Princeton. So even though few people still don’t believe in Global Warming, but it’s happening, it’s real and it’s affecting the evolutionary process; our little birdie understands it and acting accordingly, why can’t we?

Sources: Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences

Photo used under Creative Commons License

Filed under: Environment,Research

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