By JAY ROOT, Associated Press Writer Jay Root, Associated Press Writer – Thu Mar 11, 6:50 pm ET
AUSTIN, Texas – Global climate change poses a significant threat to migratory bird populations, which are already stressed by the loss of habitat and environmental pollution, according to a report released Thursday.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined scientists and conservation organizers at an Austin news conference to release the study, "The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change."
The report says oceanic birds, such as petrels and albatrosses, are at particular risk from a rapidly changing marine ecosystem and rising sea levels.
Birds in arid regions and forests show less vulnerability to climate change, but the report says many species struggling in arid regions now, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo in Texas, could be further imperiled by shifting climate conditions.
"Birds are messengers that tell us what is going on in our environment," Salazar said. "For too long, in my view, we have stood idle as the climate changes and as the crisis has grown."
A 2009 report on bird populations found nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in decline due to challenges such as the loss of wetlands, commercial hunting and pesticides.
Last year's "State of the Birds" report also mentioned climate change as a threat to birds. But the 2010 report focuses on that factor as a significant danger to their habitats and food supplies.
All 67 ocean bird species in U.S. waters are at medium to high vulnerability to climate change, according to the study. Seabirds tend to have low reproductive potential and often nest on islands that can be inundated by rising sea levels, changes in water chemistry and other disruptions to the marine ecosystem. Hawaiian birds are among those in greatest peril. …