Study in Atlanta will help determine birds’ response to climate change

Five years ago, the National Audubon Society released an alarming study forecasting danger from climate change for 314 bird species that occur in North America. Several of them, the report said, likely will be extinct by 2080.

Dozens of the species cited in the study occur in Georgia, including the bald eagle, osprey, whip-poor-will, scarlet tanager, wild turkey, orchard oriole, wood thrush, hairy woodpecker, nuthatches, sparrows, several warbler species and others.

Based on U.N. climate projections and hundreds of thousands of hours of “citizen-science” observations, including Christmas Bird Counts, the Audubon study predicted that if climate change continues at its expected rate, it likely will force vulnerable birds into smaller spaces or drive them to find new places to live, feed and nest over the next 65 years. As a result, many bird populations likely will be decimated, including extinction for some species.

Now, Audubon is conducting a nationwide pilot program, called Climate Watch, to test and fine-tune the predictions. The Atlanta Audubon Society (AAS) is part of the project, which began two years ago and is designed to help researchers determine if birds are shifting their ranges, habitats and other behaviors in response to climate change.

In Atlanta, Climate Watch volunteers are focusing on the Eastern bluebird and brown-headed, white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatches, said Adam Betuel, AAS‘s conservation director. Between now and Feb. 15, volunteers will conduct one dozen five-minute point counts in assigned areas to record all bluebirds and nuthatches seen or heard.

If you want to volunteer, email Betuel at (An ability to identify the birds by sound is helpful but not required.)

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Museum astronomer: A total lunar eclipse of January’s full moon (called the “Snow Moon” or “Wolf Moon”) will occur in Atlanta on Sunday beginning at 10:33 p.m., with full eclipse by 11:40 p.m — and ending at 12:43 a.m. Monday.

Venus rises in the east a few hours before dawn. Venus and Jupiter will appear close together before dawn on Monday. Mars is low in the southwest at dusk. Jupiter and Saturn are low in the east just before sunrise.