Being Thankful for Backyard Birds

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

At noontime, a couple of weeks back, I was sipping soup and listening to WBEZ's Worldview with Jerome McDonnell.  He was interviewing Gary Langham, the vice president and chief scientist at National Audubon Society about how climate change is and will be impacting hundreds of bird species, and what the National Audubon Society was reporting about that in its Birds and Climate Change Report.  They are referring to it as A Field Guide to a Warmer Future.

It's online and a pretty nifty resource to navigate about the big (and hyper-local) picture.

Langham told Jerome:  "This has been a project with many science staff at Audubon, and we have been working on it off and on for at least 9 years now.  We started in California, and then got some Fish and Wildlife funding to  expand it into the rest of the country, and Canada, as well."

He added that "The bottom line for the report was that over half of the species we looked at, or 314 of the 588 species are severely threatened by climate change.  What that means is that they are going to lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range over the next century, and that is really troubling, because we have species that are already, things that we have rescued in the recent past like Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican, those birds that we saved from DDT years back, are all now at risk from climate change. "

Locally speaking, this is what caught my attention.

"For instance, you may have something like the Bobolink, which is a range land bird in the Chicago Region that can travel back and forth from here to South America.  So it is fully capable of using its wings to track the climate spaces it wishes.  The problem is, as the model suggests, is that right now it is in the heartland of the country, and in 20 more years, this bird is projected to move northward many hundreds of miles, and by the end of the century, its range being all into Canada.  Which is now the Boreal Forest.  The question then is, sure, the bird can fly there, right, but how in the world does this bird that has adapted to feed its young in open range land, what is it going to do in the Boreal Forest?  That is the type of pattern we are seeing, this shifting range?"

Backyard birding has become a passion of mine, and now because of the habitat I have created in my yard --  plus thanks to my dealings with West Cook Wild Ones --  my native and edible gardening areas are bursting with bees, butterflies... and birds (year-round, and yes, I do feed the birds).

I am thankful to be able to look out my kitchen window and witness nature in a small, urban backyard. 

Helping to sustain the natural world -- even in baby steps, one native plant at a time -- is my joy of gardening for wildlife.

Meanwhile, our cat Geo just sits at the kitchen window, preying his fun will be perennial.


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