Polar Vortex, Winter Heat May Change Bird Populations


For birds and other wildlife, winter is a time of resource scarcity. 

For birds and other wildlife, winter is a time of resource scarcity. Extreme winter weather events such as a polar vortex can push some species to the edge of survival. Yet winter tends to get short shrift in climate change research, according to UW–Madison forest and wildlife ecology Professor Ben Zuckerberg.

“When we think about the impact of climate change, winter tends to be overlooked as a time of year that could have significant ecological and biological implications,” says Zuckerberg. “It makes me, and my colleagues, think quite deeply about the impacts of these extreme events during this time when species are particularly vulnerable.”

Zuckerberg, along with Jeremy Cohen, a former UW–Madison postdoctoral researcher now at the Yale Center for Biodiversity and Global Change, and Daniel Fink of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, set out to learn how extreme winter cold and heat affected 41 common bird species in eastern North America. Their work, recently published in Ecography, found that individual bird species respond differently to these weather events, and extreme winter heat may lead to longer-term changes in bird populations.

Read more at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Photo Credit: LubosHouska via Pixabay