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How climate change is impacting every state bird

  • Georgia: Brown thrasher

    Even for the lower—1.5 C—temperature rise scenario used by Audubon, the range map for brown thrasher is mostly red, indicating “range lost.” At the highest scenario, with a 3 C rise, only a tiny area in the north remains yellow, indicating Georgia could lose its state bird within decades. Rising temperatures and heavy rains are key reasons this species will find too few grubs to survive as it thrashes through leaf litter in remaining forests.

  • Hawaii: Hawaiian goose

    Once inhabiting most of the larger Hawaiian islands, the Hawaiian Goose—or Nene—was almost hunted to extinction by 1918, when only around 30 survived. But captive breeding and conservation measures have led to the population rebounding to around 3,000 today. Currently, the goose appears unusual, as a study found it was the only one of 459 endangered U.S. animal species not susceptible to climate change.

  • Idaho: Mountain bluebird

    Though nesting in habitats ranging from sagebrush desert, through mountain meadows, to alpine tundra, the mountain bluebird is at considerable risk of climate change, which could see it lost from parts of its current range in Idaho as fires raze its breeding grounds, and extreme spring heat kills nestlings.

  • Illinois: Northern cardinal

    Especially as the males are scarlet, with jaunty crests, northern cardinals are among the most eye-catching common birds in the United States, leading to seven states recognizing this as their state bird. Throughout its range, the cardinal faces climate change threats such as fires incinerating its habitat, and extreme spring heat killing young before they leave the nest. The Audubon study forecasts that for Illinois, in the midst of its range, the cardinal’s population may remain stable.

  • Indiana: Northern cardinal

    Environmental Resilience Institute researcher Adam Fudickar detailed in 2019 how early spring seasons could cause extinction in one year due to premature budding. If insects emerge too quickly due to early germination, it throws off the natural migration cycle, with incoming birds arriving too late to feed. Coming in too late directly affects the population since less time to reproduce means fewer northern cardinals in Indiana. "It is important that migratory birds reproduce at the correct time so they have resources for their offspring,” said Fudickar.

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  • Iowa: American goldfinch

    Feeding almost exclusively on seeds, the American goldfinch is a familiar summer bird across much of the United States. Despite frequenting a range of habitats, it is susceptible to climate change impacts including wildfires, extreme spring heat killing nestlings, and heavy rains destroying nests—which could lead to it no longer breeding in the southern half of Iowa with 1.5 C of warming, and no longer nesting in the state if there is 3 C of warming.

  • Kansas: Western meadowlark

    A U.S. Geological Survey analysis found the population of the western meadowlark in Kansas declined between 1966 and 2017, and that decline looks set to continue or accelerate as a result of climate change. With increased risk of fires destroying swathes of its grassland habitat—and doing so repeatedly, along with heat waves killing young ones in the nest, the western meadowlark could be eliminated from almost half of its current range in the state. 

  • Kentucky: Northern cardinal

    Kentucky’s increasing rainfall and flooding has threatened all bird species, according to the Audubon Society, reporting “at the same time, droughts have decreased groundwater and river levels, threatening navigation, electric power generation, and public water supplies.” These climate change-driven threats directly affect the non-migratory, red pointed-crest, and cone-shaped bill bird, which can sing almost 30 songs. The Audubon study forecasts that the Bluegrass State cardinal may expand its range a little, as rising temperatures in northern areas and uplands make them more suited to it as a breeding bird.

  • Louisiana: Brown pelican

    When Louisiana designated the brown pelican as its state bird in 1966, there were no longer any nesting pairs in the state. Hunting and pesticides had devastated pelican populations there and elsewhere in the United States, but conservation efforts since then—including a ban on the use of the pesticide DDT plus a reintroduction program—have spurred a resurgence in numbers. Even though the pelican faces climate change threats such as droughts destroying wetlands, and spring heat waves killing young birds in the nest, the momentum of the recovery looks set to continue, and the pelican may even more than double its range in Louisiana.

  • Maine: Black-capped chickadee

    Though widespread in Maine, the black-capped chickadee is among several of the state’s bird species that are in flux as the climate changes. It appears to be shifting northward, even as some other species like the black vulture arrive and increase in the south. The chickadee faces threats including increased forest fires and heat waves killing nestlings, which may see it disappear from some places, especially along the coast.

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