The not-so-common Loon: New study warns of decline

By 2080, Minnesota may be without its state bird during the summer months.The National Audubon Society released a study this month examining the impact of climate change on future bird ranges across North America, including the common Loon — and the findings are bleak. The study asserts that over half of all bird species found in Minnesota are threatened by climate change, with some extinctions possible.“When you have a disruptive shift of 50 percent or more of a climate suitable range for a bird species in 35 years, that’s what’s got us concerned,” said Matt Anderson, Executive Director of Audubon Minnesota.According to a press release issued by Anderson’s office, of the 588 bird species examined in the seven-year study, 314 species are at risk of habitat range reduction as a result of climate change. Of those 314, 126 species are at risk of severe declines by 2050, and another 188 species face severe decline by 2080.The study was conducted by Audubon scientists in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, using 40 years of data from Christmas bird counts and breeding bird surveys. Scientists examined 17 bioclimatic variables such as precipitation and high/low temperatures and their effects on bird life, to determine where these bird species would be able to survive, if climate trends continue through the rest of the century.(An Audubon map shows the Loon’s habitat range in 2000 against the projected range in 2080)Specifically examining the common loon, Minnesota summers are predicted to be too warm for the bird’s survival. “Basically it is getting too hot such that the future climates spaces do not match the current climate temperatures,” said Audubon chief scientist Dr. Gary Langham.Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick, who was not involved in the Audubon study, advised that these assertions should be interpreted cautiously. Continue Reading