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Audubon Study Finds 34% Of Ohio Bird Species Vulnerable To Climate Change

Brutus, an Eastern screech owl, shown off at an Audubon event on Oct. 10, 2019.
Paige Pfleger
Brutus, an Eastern screech owl, shown off at an Audubon event on Oct. 10, 2019.

New research from the National Audubon Society finds two-thirds of North American birds are at risk of extinction due to climate change.

Scientists concluded that 34% of Ohio's 219 bird species are vulnerable to climate change across seasons, including species like warblers, fish crows and sparrows.

Birds are considered early responders to climate change – they are sensitive to the weather, and warming temperatures mean they have to relocate to a more favorable climate. Finding new habitats can put species at risk of extinction. 

In Ohio, the report sites heavy rains and flooding as some of the greatest threats to birds, people and the environment. By the end of the century, the Audubon estimates that 11% of the state will change to a different biome entirely.

"The unprecedented pace and magnitude of climate change make it an existential threat to birds, people, and natural ecosystems that we depend on," said Marnie Urso, the policy director for Audubon Great Lakes.

The organization discusses its findings in a press conference Thursday at the Audubon Center in Columbus.

Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU
Otis is an Eastern screech owl.

Urso says taking action now could improve the chances of many at-risk birds.

"Audubon has a two pronged approach to taking on this issue," Urso says. "First is protecting the places that birds need and the second is addressing the underlying causes of climate change. That includes reducing green house gas emissions."

The report urges Ohio to decrease emissions by 80% statewide by 2030, by expanding green energy and energy efficiency programs. It also suggests the legislature reduce Ohio's wind turbine setback requirements, allowing for more wind farms, and increase funding for conservation programs like the H2Ohio initiative unveiled by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Audubon also created a tool so residents can input their ZIP codes and see what birds are at risk locally.