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Attention Birdwatchers: Climate Change May Make Some Species Take Flight

Don't get too used to seeing the local sparrows and chickadees visiting your backyard bird feeder. According to a new U.S. Geographical Survey study, loss of habitat may force many species to relocate in the coming decades. Fragile habitats like wetlands are threatened by new weather patterns and temperature fluctuations caused by climate change — to say nothing of development and clearcutting. The USGS study, published in the journal PLoS One, shows that many birds are going to have to pick up and leave — in some cases, like the Baird's sparrow, up to 90 percent of their habitat in the U.S. could be abandoned due to such changes. The report tallies with another issued recently by the Audubon Society.

On the other hand, the changes are a boon for birds that like deserts, because there will likely be quite a bit more of those. Gambel's quail and the Cactus wren, for instance, will have their ranges extended by more than half. Either way, there's time for you to adjust. These predictions are for 2075 — a good 60 years from now. Curious about your local grebe or finch? Prediction maps for 50 species can be browsed at the USGS website.

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-Devin Coldewey