Categories
Bird Behaviors

How Do Birds Sleep?

It may come as a surprise to some, but yes, birds do sleep. 

Sleep is essential when it comes to avian cognitive development, including early development, in birds. 

But how do they sleep?

A Sleeping Macaw
Image by David via Flickr

The sleeping antics of birds differ somewhat to that of a mammal. For starters, most birds sleep in short bursts of no more than a few minutes at a time. 

Some species even sleep whilst flying. 

Birds, along with aquatic animals, are some of the only animals that are capable of shutting down just half their brain whilst they sleep. This means the other half is still aware of its surroundings, and any potential predators. 

This article aims to explore how different groups of birds, from passerines to waterfowl, sleep. 

How Do Off-shore Birds Sleep

If I ask you to think of a bird, what comes to mind?

A bluebird on a bush? A robin in a tree? 

Typically, birds are associated with some form of plant – be it a bush, a hedgerow, or a tree. 

After all, some of the most common birds found in the USA are those that live in and around gardens and suburban parks, close to trees and bushes. 

However, there are some species that spend years, even decades, out at sea. Meet the seabirds.

These birds are adapted to life on the wing. They have mastered the art of feeding and drinking whilst flying, eliminating the need to touch land. 

But what about sleeping?

Do Seabirds Need To Land To Sleep?

Well, not exactly. 

In a recent paper, it was found that frigatebirds, a tropical seabird, can stay in continuous flight for up to two months. In this time, they will stay aloft without coming into contact with land or sea. 

A Magnificent Frigatebird Flying
Image by Florian A via Flickr

However, even if they wanted to, the frigate birds couldn’t take a rest on the ocean, as they lack waterproof feathers. This means any contact with water will result in waterlogged feathers, and the risk of drowning. 

So, how do they sleep?

The paper, authored by Rattenborg, goes on to explain that data, collected via small devices attached to the birds, shows that the frigate birds do in fact sleep whilst flying. 

However, unlike land birds, which typically sleep for up to 12 hours per day for approximately one minute at a time, frigate birds sleep very little – as little as 45 minutes per day, in small 10 second bursts. 

The Science Behind Seabird Sleeping Patterns

The main theory as to why seabirds can sleep so little is to do with their brains. With the frigatebird being the species in question, scientists have identified that seabirds sleep unihemispherically.

Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to know what that means. These pesky scientists and their unnecessarily complicated terms. 

In short, an animal that displays unihemispheric sleeping essentially shuts down half of their brain. 

A range of animals, especially aquatic mammals, display this kind of behavior. It is a way of getting some rest, whilst still being relatively aware of the surroundings. You know, in case a predator comes on by whilst you’re trying to take a nap. 

Amazingly, the eye connected to the awake part of the brain remains open, allowing birds to still visually navigate whilst sleepflying

Sleepwalking just got an upgrade. 

However, it has even been proposed that offshore birds can get a quick REM sleep cycle in, with both eyes closed! No wonder why they sleep for just 10 seconds at a time. To achieve this, the bird simply needs to maintain a state of aerodynamic soaring or a gliding position to maintain balance. 

The same principles can be allied to other long-distance offshore birds. A prime example of this is the wandering albatross, which can fly over 10,000km in a single trip. 

How Do Passerine Birds Sleep?

The passerines are perching birds. They are characterized by having four toes, three of which point forward, whilst one points back. 

Hill Blue Flycatcher Perched
Image by Khoi Tranduc via Flickr

Approximately 60% of all known bird species are classed as passerines. This includes common garden species that you may see daily, such as sparrows, cardinals and finches. 

But have you ever wondered what happens to these birds when the sun goes down? Do they even sleep? Afterall, how many of us have seen a sleeping bird?

Like most animals, sleep is essential for the development of birds. Sleep disturbances in birds have been shown to impair cognitive performance

Passerine Species Also Show Unihemispheric Sleep

In a nifty evolutionary trick, sleeping passerine birds undergo unihemispheric slow-wave sleep, or USWS for short – the same process that allows offshore birds to sleep whilst flying. 

Unlike the mammalian sleep cycle, USWS allows the sleeping bird to react quickly from a perceived threat, but still maintains satisfactory rest should no risk arise. 

It’s a complicated field of research, with scientists still trying to wrap their heads around the matter. For now, all we need to know is that passerine birds can sleep with half their brain still awake, in bursts or around 1 – 4 minutes

That’s the cognitive reasoning as to how passerine birds sleep, but what about the physiological side of things? 

Do Passerines Get Comfy When Sleeping?

Well, arguably, yes. 

Many passerine birds exhibit behaviors that make their feathers fluff up more. This is to better cover their body when they sleep and keep themselves warmer when exposed to the elements. At night, many species undergo thermogenesis, whereby they burn calories to generate heat. 

Sometimes, in extreme weather conditions, some passerine birds turn up the notch and experience a form of regulated hypothermia, referred to as nocturnal torpor. This behavior, aimed at preserving body energy, is most often seen in small birds, such as hummingbirds and swifts. 

In most cases, however, passerine birds will simply settle down for the night in a hole within a tree, or even in disused nesting boxes. Some species add animal fur or grass to increase insulation.

How Do Passerine Birds Not Fall Out Of Trees When Sleeping?

A Siskin Sleeping
Image by fotobagaluten via Flickr

Well, these little guys don’t get their perching name for nothing. 

When a bird puts any form of weight on its feet, muscles within the leg force tendons within their feet to tighten, forcing the foot to remain closed.

This involuntary behavior creates a vice-like grip on any surface the bird comes into contact with. So, even when sleeping, a bird will remain perched without the risk of falling. 

How Do Migratory Birds Sleep?

Migration is a key evolutionary strategy whereby an animal, or species, leaves one area to travel to another. 

Oftentimes, birds migrate to escape unfavorable weather conditions, such as the extreme cold. 

Twice yearly, many bird species undertake arduous journeys across the globe to reach new environments. 

One of the most famous long-distance migrant is the swift. 

In fact, the alpine swift holds the record for the longest recorded uninterrupted flight by a bird – over 200 days in the air!

Typically, migrating species will stop off in passing countries to recuperate and build up energy reserves. However, ornithologists have speculated that swifts spend much of their life on the wing. 

And, in 2013, this theory was shown to be correct.

Migration Patterns Of The Alpine Swift

A team of researchers studying alpine swifts discovered that they migrate between their breeding grounds in Switzerland, to their wintering grounds in Western Africa. Using tags that log flight information, the researchers found the swifts were airborne for the duration of the trip. 

This behavior is similar to those observed by offshore birds, which spend much of their lives out at sea. 

The researchers identified periods of increased and decreased activity, where low wing flapping was recorded, as well as elongated gliding flights. These changes of activity levels whilst in flight suggested periods of some kind of sleep in flight

However, there are other birds, such as the bar-tailed godwit, that travel exceptional distances without resting. One individual was recorded flying non-stop for over 8,000 miles, over a period of 11 days, between Alaska and Tasmania. 

Only once it has arrived in their desired destination will the bird rest. 

Some migratory birds use thermals, pockets of warm air, to help them glide to save energy. It is thought that whilst soaring on the thermals, some migrant species may squeeze in a few Z’s. 

How Do Waterfowl Sleep? 

Waterfowl includes species such as ducks and geese. 

Like other species of birds, waterfowl display unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS). They can close down half of their brain to sleep, whilst the other half remains awake and alert. 

Rottenburg, the guy who conducted the frigatebird study, also carried out research on mallard ducks

Placed in a row of four, he noticed the two ducks in the middle slept with both eyes shut, whilst the ducks on the ends of the row would sleep with one eye open. 

When rotated, the ducks exhibited the same behavior. 

Using electroencephalogram recordings, it was found that the side of the brain that controlled the eye opening had the activity of an awake bird, whilst the side with the closed eye showed similar characteristics of a duck in sleep. 

Sleeping Mallard Ducks
Image by Stephanie Pluscht via Flickr

Like passerine birds, this is an anti-predator strategy that enables the ducks to get sufficient levels of rest, whilst being prepared to flee in the event of a threat. 

Physical Behaviors of Sleeping Waterfowl

The difference with waterfowl from passerine species is the physicality of sleep. 

Sure, there are some ducks that display similar behavior to passerine species, like perching in trees.

These aptly named perching ducks, stay rooted on trees via sharp claws on their feet.

But most other species of waterfowl sleep differently. 

When seated, be it on dry land or in the water, waterfowl have a tendency to tuck their bill into their feathers, bending their head backwards doing so. 

This is typical of heavier waterfowl, such as muscovy ducks, which rest their head and neck muscles on their bodies, to avoid neck injuries whilst sleeping.

The composition of the feathers between waterfowl and passerine birds are slightly different. Living in or near to water, many waterfowl species have evolved waterproof feathers. Due to the higher oil content to make these waterproof feathers, waterfowl can’t quite as readily fluff up their feathers like passerine species do. 

So, by nestling their head into the feathers, waterfowl are able to effectively conserve body heat. 

However, other theories suggest the placement of the head on their feathers is to better align their ears and eyes to see any approaching ambush predator. 

Final Thoughts 

Birds are exceptional creatures that have adapted to a range of habitat types.

However, many bird species are susceptible to predation. 

Unfortunately, like most animals, birds need to sleep. But there is a trade-off between getting a restful sleep and watching out for predators. 

The solution?

Many bird species, from passerine to waterfowl species, undergo unihemispheric slow-wave sleep. This means they can effectively close one half of their brain down to sleep, whilst the other side, the side connected to an open eye, can stay vigilant. 

A pretty nifty compromise, if you ask me.

Categories
Social

Video of Birds Goes Viral: Starlings That Beatbox

Have You Ever Heard A Starling Beatboxing?

Viral Starling Named Ernie
Image by BBC SpringWatch via Facebook Video

A video featuring European Starlings took the world to storm, amazing viewers with their ability to beatbox.

Meet Dennis and Ernie, two rescue European Starlings:

Starlings That Can Beatbox
Image by BBC SpringWatch via Facebook Video

This charming duo were filmed while vocally battling each other to impress their human caretaker.

Starlings, like many other birds, use bird song to attract a mate or defend their territory. However, European Starlings have a particular talent when it comes to their vocal abilities, and this viral video demonstrates their musical prowess.

Just like Parrots, well-known for their mimicking abilities, Starlings imitate the sounds of other birds, objects and sometimes humans!

Bird-watchers may find it confusing, thinking they hear different birds, only to realize it’s a Starling mimicking those calls. Starlings have been known to confuse passersby with copying the calls of owls, hawks, sheep and even car alarms!

They can remember a large variety of sounds and mix them together into a complex beatbox-style song.

As a result, even the musical genius Mozart appreciated the vocal abilities of the European Starling. He taught his own pet Starling to recite the melodies of his 17th Piano Concerto.

The Video of Birds Beatboxing

Dennis and Ernie demonstrate these vocal skills, blending an assortment of sounds into an electronic-sounding musical mix.

If you listen closely to the video, you will hear Dennis (closest to the camera) saying ‘come on then!’, having learnt the phrase from his human companions.

A Beatboxing Starling
Image by BBC SpringWatch via Facebook Video

Other viewers of the video comment on being able to hear ‘message alert tones’ and a ‘small dog barking’ within the birds’ song.

Click here to watch the video of birds beatboxing and let us know what sounds you can hear!

Categories
Social

Why 80 North American Birds Are Being Renamed

The American Ornithological Society (AOS) has committed to a tremendous task over the next few years: the renaming of all North American eponymous English bird names. Eponymous indicates something named after a person, usually in honor or remembrance of the individual. 

In other words, the AOS will rename every bird named after someone within the AOS’s geographic jurisdiction. They have also vowed to rename any birds with offensive or derogatory names. 

Wilson's Warbler, a bird name likely to change in the AOS Bird Renaming Project.
A Wilson’s Warbler, a bird likely to be renamed in the AOS Bird Renaming Project. Image by Steve Jones via Flickr

To fully understand this impactful decision, let’s address the compelling why – why are birds being renamed? Then, I’ll cover everything you need to know about how the AOS plans to rename birds and how this decision will impact the rest of the globe. 

Why are North American Birds Being Renamed? 

Many English bird names reference historical naturalists, such as Wilson’s Warbler, named after Alexander Wilson, who is considered the “father of American ornithology.” However, some of these eponymous bird names represent colonial settlers who had morally questionable and racist backgrounds. 

For example, Audubon’s Shearwater and Audubon’s Oriole are birds that honor John James Audubon, a highly respected naturalist and the namesake of the National Audubon Society. He was also a slave owner and was against the abolitionist movement. Another example is Townsend’s Warbler, named after John Kirk Townsend, a naturalist who robbed Indigenous graves for skulls. 

Audubon's Shearwater, a bird name likely to change in the AOS Bird Renaming Project.
An Audubon’s Shearwater, named after John James Audubon, a famous naturalist and a slave owner. Image by Brendan Galvin via Flickr

Who Is Behind This Project?

Considering these names’ exclusionary and sometimes offensive nature, Bird Names for Birds presented a bird renaming petition to the American Ornithological Society. The AOS has the authority to change common bird names and has maintained a list of official English-language bird names in North America since 1886. The petition requested the AOS rename eponymous bird names with the explanation:

Many common bird names in North America commemorate men who participated in a colonial, genocidal, and heavily exploitative period of history. These antiquated common names are harmful, unnecessary, and should be changed in the interest of a more welcoming ornithology.” 

The AOS took this petition seriously and, in response, created the Ad Hoc English Bird Names Committee “to develop a process that will allow the [AOS] to change harmful and exclusionary English bird names in a thoughtful and proactive way for species within AOS’s purview.” This committee met bi-weekly for nine months and developed a strategic process for renaming birds. 

On November 1st, 2023, AOS officially announced the bird renaming project “in an effort to address past wrongs and engage far more people in the enjoyment, protection, and study of birds.” 

It’s evident that the AOS wishes to create a harmonious and inclusive environment for bird lovers, and they believe this significant eponymous name change will be part of that. 

So Why Not Just Change The Birds Tied To Harmful Historical Figures?

They made it clear they would address all eponymous bird names rather than only the names related to harmful historical figures. The committee reasoned that changing all eponymous bird names would help avoid “fraught debates” on human morality and judgments (these debates would be necessary for a case-by-case review of bird names). 

Bonaparte's Gull, a bird name likely to change in the AOS Bird Renaming Project.
A Bonaparte’s Gull, named after Charles Lucien Bonaparte, the French ornithologist and nephew to former French emperor Napoleon. Image by Eric Zhou via Flickr

The English Bird Names Committee also found that birds being renamed opened an exciting opportunity to have more descriptive and meaningful names. AOS president Colleen Handel said in a statement about the AOS’s bird renaming decision, “We need a much more inclusive and engaging scientific process that focuses attention on the unique features and beauty of the birds themselves.”

How The AOS Will Rename Birds 

The AOS will start the bird renaming process this year, 2024, through a “scientifically rigorous” pilot program. To begin with, they will focus on 70-80 bird species that primarily occur in the United States and Canada. 

To do this, the AOS will assemble a committee to oversee the bird renaming project (different from the Ad Hoc English Bird Names Committee). This committee will include diverse individuals with backgrounds in social sciences, communications, ornithology, and taxonomy. 

Their goal is to create a committee involving experts in different fields to consider each new bird name’s societal, cultural, and scientific impact. However, it won’t just be the committee deciding the new common name for these birds – they plan to actively involve the public in the bird renaming process.

The AOS hasn’t announced how they plan to involve the public in selecting new English bird names. If you live in the United States and wish to participate in this exciting process, they invite you to follow along on their website – www.americanornithology.com – or follow them on major social media platforms (@AmOrnith). They’ll provide updates about the bird renaming project as they develop. 

This is an exciting opportunity for birding community members to share their favorite aspects about the birds they love, such as their unique characteristics or distinct physical attributes. That way, the birds being renamed will have a common name that better describes who that bird is. 

Thick-Billed Longspur
A Thick-Billed Longspur, a bird renamed in 2020. It was originally called the McCown’s Longspur after John Porter McCown, a bird collector and Confederate general who fought against Indigenous people. Image by Steve Jones via Flickr

How the Bird Renaming Project Affects The Rest of the Globe 

Because the AOS has authority over common bird names in Central and South America, they plan to work with ornithological societies in Latin America to collaborate on the English bird renaming project. 

The AOS only has the authority to change common bird names within its geographic jurisdiction (North, Central, and South America). Therefore, any English bird names outside of this geographic jurisdiction will not be affected. Other entities, sometimes in collaboration with AOS, will continue to determine eponymous common bird names elsewhere in the globe. 

Furthermore, AOS will not change eponymous scientific names as part of the bird renaming initiative. 

US Birds Being Renamed

The AOS has not released an official list of the 70-80 bird species they plan to initially rename. That said, these common US birds will likely receive a name change*: 

  1. Allen’s Hummingbird
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird
  3. Baird’s Sandpiper
  4. Bell’s Sparrow
  5. Bewick’s Wren
  6. Bonaparte’s Gull
  7. Brandt’s Cormorant
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird
  9. Brewer’s Sparrow
  10. Bullock’s Oriole
  11. Cassin’s Finch
  12. Cassin’s Kingbird
  13. Cassin’s Sparrow
  14. Cassin’s Vireo
  15. Cooper’s Hawk
  16. Gambel’s Quail
  17. Hammond’s Flycatcher
  18. Hutton’s Vireo
  19. Leconte’s Sparrow
  20. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  21. MacGillivray’s Warbler
  22. Nelson’s Sparrow
  23. Say’s Phoebe
  24. Scott’s Oriole
  25. Steller’s Jay 
  26. Swainson’s Hawk 
  27. Swainson’s Thrush 
  28. Townsend’s Solitaire
  29. Townsend’s Warbler 
  30. Virginia’s Warbler 
  31. Wilson’s Phalarope
  32. Wilson’s Plover
  33. Wilson’s Snipe
  34. Wilson’s Warbler 

*This is not an official list of birds being renamed by AOS. 

Categories
Bird Behaviors

Why do Birds Sing? Unravelling Nature’s Secret Symphony

Whether you’re strolling through the garden or exploring the outdoors, you will notice how every bird song sounds a little bit different.

From the croaky caws of the crows, to the wistful-sounding coos of the Mourning Dove and even Common Grackle’s rusty gate-like calls – each bird has its unique symphony. 

Common Grackle Bird Sings
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula). Image by Ed Rizer via Flickr

What motivates birds to ‘sing’?

What is the motivation behind the great natural orchestra of bird song and calls? 

Bird vocalizations are broadly categorized into two types: songs and calls.

Songs are structured and complex vocalizations with melodies that even Mozart could appreciate. The primary reason birds sing is to defend their territory and to attract a mate. For the most part, only the males produce bird songs. There are exceptions to this though, particularly within tropical species, where some female birds sing and even duet with their male counterparts. 

Why some birds don’t sing

In fact, only birds that have a syrinx – a highly developed vocal organ – can sing. 

Unlike the larynx, the human (and mammal) voice box that sits higher up in the throat, the syrinx is located where the windpipe branches to connect the two lungs. This gives it a paired structure which allows some birds to produce more than one sound simulatenously. Imagine being able to sing your two favorite songs at the same time! 

Birds, like New World vultures, lack this singing organ and so can’t make bird songs. Instead, they make throaty hisses and grunts.

Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). Image by Mark Heatherington via Flickr

Mastering bird song melodies

Much like how we learn to speak as a child, young birds master the art of singing through listening and copying their parents and other birds. 

Each species passes down their songs from one generation to the next. As a result, bird songs can often have ‘regional dialects’, with one species singing slightly differently from one location to another. 

What’s different about bird ‘calls’?

These are shorter and simpler vocalizations that a bird produces instinctively and does not need to learn externally. Although mainly male birds sing, both females and males produce calls.

Check out this Great Tit showing off a variety of his bird calls on one of our Nest Box Live cams:

As we’ve learnt, bird song usually coincides with mating and territory defending. However, there are various other scenarios when a bird will need to use a call:

Alarm Calls

For example, birds often use an alarm call. This is to warn other birds that a threat, like a sky-borne predator, is approaching. Many bird species have similar alarm calls and so different species can understand and benefit from each other’s calls. 

A common type of call (and one you may have heard if you have seen our nest box live videos!) is a begging call. Young chicks use this to tell their parents ‘feed me!‘.

Barn Swallow Chicks Begging
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) chicks. Image by Dominik Siegmund via Flickr

Attention calls

What we often don’t realize is: the chick’s parents also use a call during feeding. This is a feeding call and it tells the chicks to open their beaks, if they haven’t already.

Lastly, another common bird call is a contact call. Birds use these calls to ‘stay in touch’ and know where each other are.

Take a look at this Eastern Bluebird demonstrating how she uses a contact call, probably directed towards her male mate.

Click here to find out more about the Nesting Behaviors of Eastern Bluebirds.

You’re likely to hear contact calls within flocks of flying birds, for example, groups of ‘honking’ geese.

Despite being shorter and less complex, bird calls can often be as recognisable as a bird’s song. Take the Black-capped Chickadee with its distinguished ‘chickadee-dee-dee’ contact call. 

The importance of listening to bird song

The world of avian communication is intricate and fascinating. Taking the time to listen a little deeper to our feathered friends can tell us not only what bird we are hearing, but what it is trying to say.

So, the next time you find yourself outdoors, take a moment to listen and decode the secrets hidden in the bird songs and calls of our avian companions.

Categories
Conservation

The Effects of Climate Change on Bird Species – The Winners and Losers

The earth’s climate is drastically changing and nature is having to adapt as a consequence. The industrial revolution made carbon levels in our atmosphere rapidly increase along with our reliance on fossil fuels. In May of last year, carbon levels reached 424 parts per million – a new record high. 

A Forest Fire Caused By Climate Change
Image by Saunders Drukker via Flickr

Globally, there are approximately 50 billion birds remaining today, that’s 6 for every human being. Without a doubt, anthropogenic-induced climatic change affects birds and pressurises their survival. Of the 632 approximate bird species in Great Britain, 48% are recorded to have decreased since 2015. This has placed both challenges and opportunities on various groups. 

How Does Climate Change Affect Birds?

The pressures bird populations face are multi-faceted and cannot be solely attributed to the climate change impact on birds, although it is a significant factor. Alterations in temperatures, moisture content and precipitation levels are all having major effects on bird communities around the world. These are coupled with issues such as avian flu, land use change, factory farming, intensive pesticide use and hedgerow reduction. 

Bird Flying In The City
Image by UW–Madison CALS via Flickr

Consequently, dedicated researchers are collaborating to conclude which species are winning and which are sadly losing. Species are particularly struggling to shift to new ranges due to advanced fragmentation, human land-use change and intensive farming operations. Populations are also experiencing indirect pressures such as different prey and predator species and exposure to parasites in new environments. These issues are dramatically altering the reproductive success and survival of natural communities. 

Migration

Climate change is also upsetting the distribution of species across regions by shrinking their migratory ranges and seasonal bird behaviours. Many species are arriving in spring breeding grounds unusually early as well as laying eggs earlier due to warming.

The British Trust for Ornithology has calculated that Britain has lost 73 million birds since 1970, most of which are farmland species. This is particularly evident for migratory birds where climate change is affecting both their breeding and over wintering regions. This includes physical effects on their habitat, and reductions in available food sources.

Climate change affects bird migrations by altering the start date of their migration and the location they decide to reside. Due to warmer winters, species are wintering further North and East of Europe, increasing competition over winter food stores.

Long-distance migratory birds such as the Common Sandpiper, already in decline in Europe, struggle due to limited food sources along their migratory path. Species also struggle to alter their arrival date in spring breeding grounds and track the availability of their prey, i.e. insects.

UK Bird Species at Risk Due to Climate Change

With warmer seasons in Southern Britain, food sources are reducing. Consequently, fewer migratory birds are traveling the usual great distances across the Sahara desert. Cuckoo’s arrive in early April to the UK where they are either loved or hated for their distinctive, repetitive, call. They then start their migration in June, or used to. Scientists state that cuckoos are struggling to adjust their internal clocks. Therefore, they face crossing the Sahara in awful conditions or too late when there are no food sources or mates remaining.

Cuckoo Flying
Image by Paul Watts via Flickr

However, the climate change impact on birds is not always detrimental. Some species are taking advantage of the extended warming periods. The Reed Warbler is successfully producing more young every year. UK bird ringers are also welcoming the increasing sightings of Bee-Eaters and Black-Winged stilts, both non-native species. These species were not previously seen in such quantities but have been spotted in Eastern England in flourishing breeding pairs. 

Physical effects

The summer of 2023 saw the waters surrounding the UK rise by 4-5 degrees celsius above average. Warming seas are consequently negatively affecting a variety of marine life such as Sand Eels, a species reliant on cooler waters for survival. They are also key sources of food for Kittiwakes and Puffins which are both critically endangered around the British coastline. The RSPB has petitioned and halted industrial Sand Eel fishing in North Sea waters, backed by 95% of governmental groups. 

Little Terns are also increasingly at risk as more storm surges wipe away their beach dwelling nests. Similarly, Lapwings face losing their nests increasingly due to summertime flooding events which is even more concerning. This is also true for Manx Shearwaters whereby 80% of the world’s population return to the UK in spring to breed.

Rising sea temperatures are also having a dramatic effect on the marine food chain. Zooplankton numbers are diminishing, as are the sprats, other small fish and crustaceans which feed on them. This is all affecting our seabirds, which are dependent on healthy seas to feed themselves.

Puffin Flying With Sand Eels
Image by Jeff Skyes via Flickr, Facebook, X

What Can be Done to Reduce the Climate Change Impact on Birds?

The climate change impact on birds is hugely diverse and constantly changing. As birds adapt their diet or migratory timings we are seeing very different sightings of species in the UK and vast changes in population numbers.

The main takeaway is the resilience of nature when faced with a rapidly warming world. However, we cannot rely on resilience in order to conserve birds. Instead society must incorporate nature-based and friendly solutions across industries. Such solutions put nature at the heart of business ethic and recognise the role bird ringers, volunteers, scientists and enthusiasts have in preserving species diversity.