State of the Birds 2010

by Mike Winslow

In early March The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change was released.  This 32 page report follows on the heels of the 2009 report that showed nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species were endangered, threatened or in significant decline. The 2010 report represents a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and experts from the nation’s leading conservation organizations including Audubon.


The 2010 report presents the first systematic analysis of what may happen to bird populations in each major biome of the United States as a consequence of climate change.

The report assesses the vulnerability of bird species in eight habitat groupings: oceans, Hawaii, coasts, the Arctic, Pacific islands, grasslands, the Caribbean, arid lands, wetlands, and forests. Forest and wetland species were the most resilient, with 68% and 64% of species respectively categorized as low vulnerability. In contrast Oceanic and Hawaiian species were the most vulnerable.Bird Report Cover

Forest birds are expected to fare better than many other groups because of their large ranges and high reproductive potential. However, even within this group there are some species expected to struggle, for example the Bicknell’s Thrush of Vermont’s mountains.

Ocean birds include albatrosses, petrels, puffins, and murres. These birds face challenges associated with rapid widespread shifts in pelagic food resources as a result of warmer ocean temperatures and changing wind patterns.  They also have a low reproductive rate making these species less resilient in general.


In the conclusions the report worries that, “Without additional information on how birds are responding to the effects of climate change, we will be unable to adjust our conservation and management strategies. Well-designed monitoring systems will also be needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies used to counteract effects of climate change on bird populations.” Audubon chapters can do their part by monitoring bird populations in Vermont.

The report is available on the web at

This article is reprinted from the May, 2010 issue of Otter Tracks, the newsletter of the Otter Creek Audubon Society.

Mike Winslow is the staff scientist for the Lake Champlain Committee, a board member of the Otter Creek Audubon Society, and the author of the book Lake Champlain: A Natural History.v