The Greatest Threat to Our Birds is Here

The greatest threat to our birds is here, and it’s time to take action before it’s too late.

This morning, the National Audubon Society released its landmark study on climate change and birds, and the results are alarming. Research shows global warming threatens more than half the bird species in the continental United States and Canada, and many species on that list are the North Carolina birds we all know and love.

Cerulean Warbler by Wikimedia Commons.

Cerulean Warbler by Wikimedia Commons.

Without action, we will see dramatically fewer bird species in our lifetime. But Audubon is already working to protect our birds and will be incorporating the results of this study to determine the places birds will need to survive and thrive over the next critical decade before it’s too late.

A Wake-Up Call for Birds and People 

Of the 588 continental United States and Canadian bird species examined in the seven-year study, 314 species are at risk. Of those, about 1 in 5 (126 species) are at risk of severe declines by 2050, and a further 188 species face the same fate by 2080, with numerous extinctions possible if global warming is allowed to erase the havens birds occupy today.

Brown Pelican by Linda Tanner/Flickr Creative Commons

Brown Pelican by Linda Tanner/Flickr Creative Commons

Audubon North Carolina Executive Director Heather Hahn says “the results of this study are our wake-up call; we know with certainty that our birds are in trouble and not all of them will be able to survive in a changing climate without our help. Major declines in bird populations could happen within our children’s lifetime if we don’t take action now. Just like the canaries in the coal mines, these birds are sounding the alarm that it’s time for people to act before it’s too late.”

Threat to Our Birds

“The greatest threat our birds face today is global warming,” said Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham, who led the investigation. “That’s our unequivocal conclusion after seven years of painstakingly careful and thorough research. Global warming threatens the basic fabric of life on which birds – and the rest of us – depend, and we have to act quickly and decisively if we are going to avoid catastrophe for them and us.”

American Oystercatcher by Meryl Lorenzo/Audubon Photography Award

American Oystercatcher by Meryl Lorenzo/Audubon Photography Award

Langham and other Audubon ornithologists analyzed more than 40 years of historical North American climate data and millions of historical bird records from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count to understand the links between where birds live and the climatic conditions that support them.

Understanding those links then allows scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive – and not survive – in the future.

Audubon’s study shows how climate conditions including rainfall, temperature and humidity – the building blocks for ecosystems and species survival – may have catastrophic consequences when tipping those balances.

While some species will be able to adapt to shifting climates, many of North America’s most familiar and iconic species will not.

Piping Plover by Flickr Creative Commons

Piping Plover by Flickr Creative Commons

Stronghold in North Carolina

The study adds a renewed sense of urgency to protect the places birds and people live today, prepare for the future, and do everything we can to reduce the severity of global warming before it’s too late.

North Carolina birds like the American Oystercatcher, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Golden-winged Warbler are at risk of major population declines. Our state is a stronghold for birds, and we have a unique opportunity to protect a wide range of threatened species in a variety of habitats from the coast to the mountains.

What You Can Do

Here is what you can do right now to help:

  • Understand the local connection to this study.
  • Follow Audubon North Carolina State Director Heather Hahn on Twitter to get the latest information.
  • Learn more about the conservation programs already in place in North Carolina to protect our birds.
  • Read news coverage about the study from National Geographic.
  • Sign up for our NC Action Alert network to stay informed as we implement plans to save the strongholds birds will need to survive the impact of climate change in our state.

Wood Thrush by Kelly Colgan Azar/Flickr Creative Commons

Wood Thrush by Kelly Colgan Azar/Flickr Creative Commons

This study is just the start of a continuing work focus on climate change impacts on birds in North Carolina. Stay tuned to our Facebook page, eNewsletter, special eBulletins and website to learn how you can be involved.

The study released by the National Audubon Society, which was funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has numerous implications for conservation, public policy and further research and provides a new suite of tools for scientists, conservationists, land managers and policy makers. For more information about links between birds and global warming, including animated maps and photographs of the 314 species, visit

Bike For Birds 2014 – Join the Flock!

bike-for-birds-sliderSince 2011, Lena Gallitano has participated in the Mountains to Coast Cycle North Carolina event – a bicycle ride across our beautiful state – to help make bird conservation a reality by raising funds for Audubon North Carolina.

This year, Lena is putting together a team of cyclists to Bike for Birds including Audubon North Carolina Executive Director Heather Hahn. The Audubon team will be pedaling across our state September 27 to October 4. See the entire Bike for Birds team who will be joining this speedy flock across North Carolina:

9/28 9/29 9/30 10/1 10/2 10/3 10/4
Sparta  Mt. Airy  Reidsville  Oxford  Roanoke Rapids  Edenton Manteo to Hatteras
Jeff Birk Jeff Birk Jeff Birk Jeff Birk Jeff Birk Jeff Birk Jeff Birk
Jim Martin Jim Martin Jim Martin Skip Stoddard Lena Gallitano Lena Gallitano Lena Gallitano
Gary Smith Heather Hahn Penelope Foss

Lena, Heather and all of the other riders are challenging citizens, organizations and businesses to show their support for meaningful conservation by donating to the important work of Audubon North Carolina.

Our goal is to raise $10,000 to help protect birds and the habitats that they, and we need. Click here to donate to Bike for Birds 2014. 

Thank You to Our 2014 Sponsors!

cccs handover final-2

Miles McClellan

Bowman Murray Hemingway Architects

Leesa Brinkley Graphic Design

CES Mail House

Get Involved TODAY:

Important Bird Areas Create Protection for Birds

Sadly, many of our bird populations are declining. As their natural habitats shrink due to deforestation and urbanization, there are fewer places for birds to breed, lay eggs, rest during migration, or have a safe place for the winter. Audubon North Carolina’s Important Bird Areas (IBA) are protecting the habitats that birds need to survive and thrive.

Our IBA program defines the most critical places in our state to protect birds and serves as our blueprint for conservation. Audubon has identified 96 IBAs in North Carolina that provide essential habitats from the coast to the mountains. Working hand in hand with Birdlife International, we created a network of connected habitats across state and international boundaries throughout the Western Hemisphere, collaborating to create a landscape of protection for many species of concern.

But there is a lot that people can do to help bird populations here in North Carolina and around the world. Watch this special video to learn more about our IBA program and the birds it protects. Then click here to find out how you can help support the IBA program in North Carolina.

See the Local and Global Impacts of our NC IBAs

Have you ever wondered how local bird conservation in North Carolina could benefit birds on a global scale?

Important Bird Areas are vital to bird conservation, serving as essential sites for a number of bird species during their migration, wintering and breeding cycles. From the mountains to the coast, 4.9 million acres of land have been designated as 96 IBAs to protect our birds and their habitat.

But it doesn’t stop there! Thirty of our own IBAs are also considered significant to bird conservation on a global level, protecting migrating birds as they nest or rest here. By creating connected habitats across our state and the rest of the world, Audubon NC is contributing to the protection of our birds locally as well as globally.

Check out this infographic featuring some of our most significant success stories to learn more about Audubon’s IBA program and the birds it protects. Then click here to find out how you can help protect the IBA program in North Carolina.

North Carolina's Important Bird Areas Infographic



Global Work to Save our IBAs

defend volunteer donate
Sign-up for action alerts to help decision makers do the right thing for birds and people. Become a citizen-scientist. It’s fun and anyone can do it. Collecting data from 4.9 million acres takes a lot of resources. Donating to the IBA program means investing in the long-term conservation of North Carolina.

Learn more about IBAs through our infographic and video.

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What do Pungo-Pocosin Lake, Lea-Hutaff Island and Highlands Plateau all have in common? They’re all home to some of North Carolina’s 96 Important Bird Areas (IBA). Audubon North Carolina’s IBA program serves to promote the conservation of vital bird habitat on a local and global scale. From the mountains to the coastal plain, scientists and conservationists are able to utilize IBAs to focus their efforts and protect declining bird populations.

Why IBAs?

IBAs have the ability to help bird populations survive and thrive! The 4.9 million acres that make-up our statewide IBA program are an integral piece of the conservation puzzle that brings together resources from partner organizations, researchers and citizen scientists all in the name of protecting our birds. These are essential habitats for one or more bird species of conservation concern during their annual cycle of breeding, nesting, migrating or wintering. Without healthy habitats for our birds to nest and rest, bird populations will decline.

IBAs have shown tangible results that can be felt across the state:

  • Pungo-Pocosin Lakes – IBA data helped stave off the placement of a Navy Outlying Landing Field where jets could have collided with the thousands of Tundra Swans and Snow Geese that winter in the refuge.
  • Lea-Hutaff – As bare sand habitat becomes increasingly scarce, Lea-Hutaff and other coastal IBAs become increasingly important for Black Skimmers and terns.
  • Highlands Plateau – This IBA is one of North Carolina’s most important sites for a variety of migrating warblers and other northern species that are at the southern point of their range in Highlands. Several conservation organizations are working together to extend and enhance this IBA.

Wood Thrush by Will Stuart.

Wood Thrush by Will Stuart.

A Global Plan for Local Conservation

As birds travel across continents and hemispheres during their migrations, their habitats are at risk all over the world. Problems they face include pollution, habitat degradation, invasive species and more.

Audubon NC is engaging our citizens to get involved in protecting many vital areas for birds as they nest and rest in our state. In North Carolina, there are 30 locations that are recognized as globally significant IBAs – IBAs that support the entire global population of a species – supporting the health of specific species of birds, such as the Wood Thrush.

And it’s paying off! Virtually every conservation organization and state and federal conservation agency in North Carolina incorporates IBA data in their planning and decision-making. This has led to healthier bird populations and stronger conservation efforts across our state.

Learn more about the Wood Thrush

The Wood thrush is just one example of the many bird species that have benefitted from our work in IBAs on a local and global level. After a significant population decline, efforts to save this beloved bird have been organized through international partnerships and researchers gaining a better understanding of its lifecycle. Learn more about the conservation of the Wood Thrush by following its journey through our global IBAs in this short video.