Montana Audubon

Montana Audubon works at the local, state and national policy levels to protect our natural heritage.

Birds and Climate

We are concerned about the impacts to birds from a rapidly changing climate. Birds act as pollinators, keep insect populations in check and are deeply connected to the larger ecological web. They are also an excellent tool for helping us understand natural systems. Bird watching is a significant economic driver here in Montana, evidence of our profound appreciation for their natural beauty.

Audubon's Birds and Climate Study:

National Audubon’s 2014 Birds and Climate study reveals the devastating effect global climate change is likely to have on our birds. It also helps us identify the habitat strongholds across North America that they will need in order to hang on – lands we can help protect.

There’s a lot to digest in this ground-breaking report. To learn more:

  • Visit National Audubon’s birds and climate webpage featuring interactive maps of the 314 species at risk, a technical report, and in-depth stories.
  • National Audubon’s How to Be a Climate Hero can give you some great ideas on what YOU can do – and how to learn more about climate change.

ABC: Art, Birds and Climate:

During 2013-14 we worked with University of Montana student Mara Menahan to use art to explore three Montana habitats and key birds at risk therein. Mara’s work stunningly depicts birds at risk in our alpine, forest and sagebrush systems.

Montana Stories about Birds and Climate:

At Montana Audubon we want you to know about the implications climate change has for our state’s birds. Here are a few stories:

Black Swift:

It might look frighteningly precarious to us, but nesting on cliff faces behind waterfalls is common sense to a Black Swift. The birds have no trouble weaving behind watery curtains where their nests and chicks remain out of reach for most land predators.

Over the past four decades, scientists have observed a slow but steady decline in the number of Black Swifts throughout North America (down about 6% each year). Scientists speculate that the species’ declining numbers are caused in part from climate change. For ages, permanently snowy mountaintops have served as a vital water source, lasting late into the summer when swifts are still nesting.  However, in Montana and throughout the Rocky Mountains, the annual snowpack is shrinking as a result of warmer, drier winters.  And as water disappears from mountains, so might Black Swifts.

More accurate information is needed about the current condition of the species so Montana Audubon has developed a project to locate nests and measure birds in the remote mountain landscapes where they breed.

To learn more about Black Swifts, visit our citizen science project on Nesting Black Swifts in Montana.

Mountain Chickadee:

In much of its range, this hardy Mountain Chickadee is tightly associated with mountain conifer forests and backyard bird feeders, even in the dead of winter. An intriguing aspect of National Audubon’s climate model projection is the existence of suitable climate “space” in the Arctic for these birds—in winter, but not in summer—but such a range expansion is unlikely.

Audubon maps that show changing climate suitability for these chickadees are here.


More Information on Birds and Climate:

Join a citizen science project. One of the best ways we can track the impacts of climate change in Montana is to monitor our birds. Montana Audubon does several citizen science projects that allow all of us to participate.

National Audubon Climate Page A resource for climate news on a national/regional scale.

Boreal Songbird Initiative. Protecting our northern forests is a great way to curtail carbon emissions–and protect songbirds along the way.

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    P.O. Box 595
    Helena, MT 59624

    [email protected]

  • Phone: (406) 443-3949
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