10 States Could Lose State Birds

From Louisiana’s Brown Pelican to Minnesota’s Common Loon, ten state birds could leave the states that honor them, thanks to climate change.

In 2080, the Baltimore Orioles may have to play baseball under a different name. That’s because climate change is likely to have altered climatic conditions so drastically, the bird may no longer be able to reside in Maryland.

Such is the case for the Oriole, and eight other state birds, according to Audubon’s new Birds and Climate Change Report. In a comprehensive study, Audubon scientists mapped out the impact of global warming on 588 North American birds. The report’s findings are shocking—314 of the 588 species studied will lose more than half of their range, making them climate endangered. Birds searching for appropriate climate conditions may be forced into a hostile habitat—it’s hard to be a seabird in landlocked territory, for example.

Among the 314 climate-endangered birds are nine state birds, beloved for their frequent sightings and historical significance. Here is a look at the birds who may abandon the states that claim them as their own:

1. Common Loon: Minnesota

This expert diver will be looking for cooler waters as things heat up in Minnesota. The report predicts that by 2080, the Common Loon will be spending its summers in Canada, its haunting call but an echo in the memories of Minnesotans.

If they’re lucky, a few loons may pop up in the southern part of the state during winter months.

2. Baltimore Oriole: Maryland

As noted, the baseball team may need a new mascot because by 2080 their yellow-bellied friend may no longer be nesting in Maryland. The Baltimore Oriole, named for sharing the same color as Lord Baltimore’s coat of arms, may try to move farther north into parts of Canada and Alaska as global temperatures rise.

3. Brown Pelican: Louisiana

The Brown Pelican, an iconic bird with an impressive 6.5-foot wingspan, will see much of its habitat range shift northward. Even though appropriate climates may exist in northern parts of Louisiana, the birds may not find the right habitats there. An inability to find fish once they leave the coast could seriously harm the birds’ chances of survival.

Climate change will be a second major threat to these birds after pesticides almost completely eradicated them from Louisiana and other states in the 1960s.

4. California Gull: Utah

Despite being an adaptable scavenger, the California Gull will virtually disappear from Utah as desertification intensifies in the southwest. Instead, the species will make its way towards the coast, looking for fish and landfill to stuff its belly. The California Gull has played a major role in Utah history and saved Mormon settlers in 1848 from crop-destroying crickets, eating them by the hoards before they did too much damage. The only remaining hope Utah has of seeing the gull in the future is likely in winter.

5. Hermit Thrush: Vermont

As the 21st century progresses, the Hermit Thrush is more likely to appear in the Green Mountain State only in the winter. This is a complete reversal of its usual behavior – it usually only spends the summer in Vermont.

The warmer temperatures will push this bird up to Canada for the winter months.

6 & 7. Mountain Bluebird: Idaho and Nevada

This bird is so gorgeous that two states claimed it as their own (though Idaho cheated and has a second state bird: the Peregrine Falcon). By 2080, the Mountain Bluebird will lose 73 percent of its summer range (though its winter range will increase by 32 percent). Audubon expects bluebird populations to drastically decrease in summer as its preferred habitats of meadows and tundra become increasingly affected by climate change.

8. Ruffed Grouse: Pennsylvania

The Ruffed Grouse is expected to lose 34 percent of its breeding range by 2080 and will totally disappear from Pennsylvania. Though it isn't a migratory bird, it has been known to change territory regularly.

This chicken-like birds' mating ritual of drumming wing beats will no longer be heard in at least 8 states.

9. Purple Finch: New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s brightly colored state bird, the Purple Finch, will be heading north as the changing climate chases it away from its current winter and summer ranges. It’s likely that the finch will find refuge in Alaska, though the bird would be exploring uncharted territory there, so it is unknown whether the species will adapt. The males will be easy to spot in snowy winter with their raspberry red plumage.

10. Wood Thrush: Washington, D.C.

Cowbird parasitism and nest predation have already sharply reduced Wood Thrush populations, but now it will face new challenges with climate change. Its summer range will decline by 82 percent by 2080. However, the District may catch glimpses of the bird in the winter by the end of the century, as the Delaware Bay could heat up enough to host the bird over the winter months. 

Birds at Risk

Explore more birds threatened by climate change around the country.

Allen's Hummingbird
Baird's Sparrow
Bald Eagle
Brown Pelican
Burrowing Owl
Cerulean Warbler
Common Loon
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Golden Eagle
Greater Sage-Grouse
Hooded Oriole
Mississippi Kite
Northern Shoveler
Piping Plover
Ruffed Grouse
Rufous Hummingbird
Spotted Owl
Tundra Swan
White-throated Sparrow
Yellow-billed Magpie

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