North Fork birds visit a feeder in Cutchogue. Photo: Katharine Schroeder

When you wake up in the morning, do you hear the birds singing? What if there came a day when those voices were silenced? Would it impact your life?

According to a 2014 study by the National Audubon Society, it will.

“Birds are indicator species,” says Lynsy Smithson-Stanley, deputy director of Climate and Strategic Initiatives for National Audubon Society.

“When birds are struggling it’s indicative of a much larger systemic threat that ecosystems are facing. It’s kind of like how we used to use the canary in the coal mine. Whether you love birds or not, when birds are dramatically shifting their ranges and their ranges are shrinking, it’s indicative of a much bigger problem.”

Over 300 species of birds in North America are at risk due to climate change, the study found. Migratory birds are arriving earlier and staying longer, which indicates changes to the timing of the seasons. Climate change is the single greatest threat to North American birds, the study found.

On Sunday, March 12, Smithson-Stanley will give a presentation summarizing the study and providing information about what people can do to combat the threat.

There are simple changes people can make to help locally threatened birds, Smithson-Stanley said. Planting native plants, offering birds spots of shelter and providing water are a few she suggests. On a larger scale, using solar power would help reduce the greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change, she said.

North Fork Audubon Society president Debra O’Kane uses the Purple Martin as an example of an at-risk bird that North Fork residents are familiar with.

“Martin colonies can be found all over the North Fork,” says O’Kane. “They are great in terms of insect control, keeping down the population of mosquitos and other pests. If the timing is off for the birds’ arrival in relation to the insect lifecycle, the chicks will die and the insect population will explode.”

The National Audubon Society spent seven years studying climate change and its effects on birds, providing provable data that shows what birds are at risk and why.

“Even if people don’t love birds, they are a good indicator of more troubled systemic threats,” said Smithson-Stanley. And every little bit that people can do to help out climate-threatened species helps, she said.

The presentation will take place on Sunday, March 12 at 2 p.m at the Peconic Lane Community Center, 1170 Peconic Lane, Peconic.

For more information contact the North Fork Audubon Society at 516-526-9095 or [email protected]

We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.