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Bird Counts Spur Audubon to Climate Action

Half of the bird species in North America will be at risk of extinction from climate change during this century, Eastside Audubon members learned at this year’s annual statewide conference of Audubon chapter members.

Common Loons, by Sunny WalterThat prospect is the catalyst for a climate action campaign that National Audubon (NAS) plans to launch next year, announced Kathy Dale, the director of citizen science for NAS, at the Audubon Council of Washington (ACOW).

Also at the conference, state Audubon leaders detailed plans to focus on conserving habitat for sagebrush-steppe grouse and songbirds in Washington and on preserving forage fish for seabirds that are in decline off the northwest coast.

Christmas Bird Counts Tell the Tale

NAS researchers have blended climate change modeling with data from more than a century of Christmas Bird Counts to conclude that as many as 300 North American species could be threatened with extinction by 2100, compared to a loss of 9 species since the last ice age.

The findings are currently undergoing academic review and an Audubon Guide to Future Bird Ranges is pending publication, Ms. Dale noted.

Her presentation underscored the value to bird science of Audubon chapters’ work on nationwide community projects such as the Christmas Bird Count, the Great Backyard Bird Count on Presidents Day weekend, and Hummingbirds at Home in spring and summer.

Sagebrush-steppe and Seacoast Priorities

Ms. Dale’s talk was the keynote of a conference that also outlined Audubon Washington’s plans for work on two Pacific Flyways priorities: the sagebrush-steppe species of eastern Washington and the marine birds of the northwest coast.

In the sagebrush-steppe region, Audubon Washington plans to conduct sage-grouse and songbird population surveys during the 2014 breeding season, reported Trina Bayard, Audubon Washington director of bird conservation. The resulting data will help guide work on energy siting, regional planning, and habitat conservation.

For marine birds, the Audubon flyways program is aimed at ensuring an adequate supply of forage fish and on protecting and restoring both coastal and inland habitat.

Saving Fish to Save Birds

Of the 37 most common wintering marine species in our region, 14 are in decline in large part because of food pressure, said Ms. Bayard. Most dramatically affected are loon species, Western Grebes, scoters, and the Marbled Murrelet.

Washington chapters can support the coastal program by helping to defend Important Bird Areas around Grays Harbor and supporting existing projects such as Seattle Audubon’s Puget Sound Seabird Survey and Whidbey Audubon’s Guillemot Research Group.

Collaboration among chapters was the theme also in an opening address by EAS President Andy McCormick at the conference. Representatives from 21 of the state’s 25 Audubon chapters attended.

In a breakout session of King County chapters, Andy highlighted Eastside Audubon’s intention to bring particular attention to two elements of the NAS strategy: Bird Friendly Communities and Healthy Climate and Clean Energy Future.

Editor's note: Eastside Audubon's 2014 Christmas Bird Count will be December 14 and is open to all who would like to participate. Learn more

Photo: Common Loons, by Sunny Walter

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The mission of Eastside Audubon is to protect, preserve and enhance natural ecosystems and our communities for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people.