How Does Global Warming Affect Birds, Other Wildlife, and Their Habitats?

All organisms depend on their habitats for food, water, shelter, and opportunities to breed and raise young. Climate changes can affect organisms and their habitats in a myriad of ways. In fact, global warming impacts all life on earth, from individual organisms to populations, species, communities, and ecosystems. It can alter behaviors, population sizes, species distributions, plant and animal communities, and ecosystem functions and stability. How strongly different species will be affected varies, depending on differences in their ecology and life history. Species with small population sizes, restricted ranges, and limited ability to move to different habitat will be most at risk. Similarly, different habitats and ecosystems will be impacted differently, with those in coastal, high-latitude, and high-altitude regions most vulnerable.


When it comes to global warming, birds are like canaries in the coal mine, showing us that temperature increases are reshaping our ecology in potentially dangerous ways. According to a 2009 Audubon report, nearly 60% of 305 species found in North America in winter have been on the move over the last 40 years, shifting their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles, and in some cases by hundreds of miles.