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Backyard birding: ZIP code tool lists birds endangered by global warming

brown-headed nuthatch

The brown-headed nuthatch would have to leave Atlanta's Candler Park neighborhood in search of a cooler climate if temperatures rise by 2 degree Celsius, according to a report released in October by the National Audubon Society. File/Credit: Christy Cox, via Atlanta Audubon Society

By David Pendered

A new search engine allows users to enter a ZIP code to get a list of the bird species that are threatened by climate change in that neighborhood.The National Audubon Society released the tool Thursday along with a new report: Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink.

eastern towhee, edit

The Eastern towhee likely would have to flee the Candler Park neighborhood, in Atlanta, if temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius, according to a report by the National Audubon Society. Credit: Dan Vickers via Atlanta Audubon

The purpose of the ZIP code tool is to help individuals see which birds in their backyards are at risk due to climate change. The intent is to bring average folks into a more personal relation with at-risk birds that now share space with humans.

By comparison, so little attention was paid to a groundbreaking report in May that the lack of attention became a story. The report by an affiliate of the United Nations predicted human society is at risk as 1 million plant and animal species are on the brink of extinction.

The report the Audubon Society released Thursday is gloomy. The home page notes that, “Two-thirds of North American birds are at an increasing risk of extinction from global temperature rise.” Audubon scientists used a bank of 140 million observations to make the observation: “Birds will be forced to relocate to find favorable homes. And they may not survive.” [emphasis in original text.]

The ZIP code tool aims to cut through the possible burnout on climate change. Here are few examples of the projected impact on birds that reside in metro Atlanta and North Georgia in the summer time. This tool allows the user to set the temperature increase, and the following examples are set for an increase of 2 degrees Celsius, as some models forecast will occur by 2050 unless action is taken:

Candler Park, ZIP code 30307

  • Six species, high vulnerability – including red headed woodpecker; brown thrasher, the official state bird of Georgia; and yellow-throated warbler.
  • 14 species, moderate vulnerability – including American robin; Canada goose; and field sparrow.
  • 23 species, low vulnerability – including wood duck; American crow; bald eagle and broad-winged hawk;
  • 57 species, stable – including chimney swift; snowy egret; and little blue heron.

Ringgold, ZIP code 30736

  • Seven species, high vulnerability – including black-throated green warbler; Eastern towhee; and brown-headed nuthatch.
  • 14 species, moderate vulnerability – including Eastern kingbird; American goldfinch; and scarlet tanager.
  • 22 species, low vulnerability – including mallard; cedar waxwing; and house finch.
  • 51 species, stable – including common nighthawk; turkey vulture; and ruby-throated hummingbird.
brown-headed nuthatch

The brown-headed nuthatch would have to leave Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood in search of a cooler climate if temperatures rise by 2 degree Celsius, according to a report by the National Audubon Society. Credit: Christy Cox, via Atlanta Audubon Society

Adam Betuel, conservation director for Atlanta Audubon, reviewed the information for Georgia and observed in a statement:

  • “In Georgia, 23 percent, or 58 of Georgia’s 254 bird species, are vulnerable to climate change, according to this groundbreaking report. Without substantial climate change mitigation, many common Georgia species like the Brown Thrasher, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Towhee, and many others could become uncommon or even extirpated in Georgia.
  • “It is critical that we take prompt, meaningful steps to reduce global warming so that these birds can remain part of our lives and landscapes.”

In addition, Atlanta Audubon observed:

“Eight Georgia birds were named species of high concern, including Red-headed Woodpecker, Fish Crow, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Nelson’s Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, and Yellow-throated Warbler. The five primary climate-related threats facing Georgia birds include sea level rise, urbanization, extreme spring heat, heavy rain, and false spring.

Note to readers: More information on Georgia’s vulnerable species is available at, “How Climate Change will Affect Georgia’s Birds.”



David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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