Extreme winter weather may affect bird populations

Birds such as the red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) were affected by extreme winter weather.
Credit: Jeremy Cohen/University of Wisconsin-Madison

When researchers study climate change, they often focus on scorching heat in hotter summers. Winter tends to get overlooked, even though extreme weather events can be impactful to wildlife. In a study published in Ecography, researchers looked at how extreme winter events, from cold snaps to heat waves, has affected 41 common North American bird species.

Their findings suggest some birds abandoned the area during a January 2014 polar vortex or at least became inactive. During a December 2015 heat wave, abundance and occurrence increased and remained high for 30 days afterward, suggesting winter heat waves could speed birds’ steady migration northward.

Read more about the study here.