Birds and climate change: can they stay or will they go?

Jump ahead thirty years—will you still find the sights and sounds of your favourite birds in national parks? By 2050, one in four birds in Parks Canada places may need to find new homes as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Parks Canada and its partners have collaborated on a national study to understand the impacts of climate change on birds—and how we can protect them, and help them adapt.

A grey coloured bird hangs upside down from a twig as it eats the red berries that are attached.
The Pine Grosbeak’s habitat is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in many national parks across Canada.
A grey coloured bird is perched on the branch of an evergreen tree.
A Pine Grosbeak. Photo: Janelle MacLeod/Parks Canada

The messengers

Birds are among the most studied animals, and what they are telling us about climate change is alarming: birds and their habitat ranges are being impacted at local and global scales.

“Climate change is affecting all species. And like many other people, it was through birds that I could begin to see its impacts on species first hand. However, it’s one thing to witness local changes—but it’s staggering when you see the global significance of the impacts to bird populations in the data from countless other birders and research scientists.”

Dr. Scott Parker
Ecosystem Scientist at Parks Canada.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch.

As climate changes, habitat suitability for the different bird species living in a park will either improve, worsen, or remain stable. Birds may colonize new areas, or become extirpated – locally extinct – from places where they are found today. This will depend on the season, the location, and the bird’s ability to adapt to changing conditions.

A bird with a short beak and spotted belly stands perched on a branch.
The Northern Waterthrush is already moving further north due to climate change.
A bird with a short beak and spotted belly stands perched on a branch with its mouth open.
The Northern Waterthrush.

Watch the team at Torngat Mountains National Park as they study the way climate change is affecting the bird community in the low Arctic.

Field Notes Vlog: The Future of Birds in a Changing Climate

Text transcript

[Darroch] My name is Darroch Whitaker.

[Darroch] I'm an ecologist at Parks Canada.

[Darroch] Just getting ready to head out for a day of ecosystem monitoring at Torngat Mountains National Park.

[Darroch] Our pilot, Kyle, is getting the helicopter ready behind us.

[Darroch] We're leaving here from Torngat Mountains Base Camp and Research Station, which is our base of operations when we're doing fieldwork in the park.

[Darroch] A lot of the work we do in Torngat Mountains National Park has been focused on climate change and the effects of climate change on ecosystems and the environment in the Park.

[Darroch] One of the things we're seeing happen, is what we call shrubification.

[Darroch] It's happening all across the Canadian Arctic, but essentially tundra ecosystems converting to more of a shrub-type ecosystem.

[Darroch] On this hillside here in Nakvak Brook, you can see the green growing up the valley sides.

[Darroch] That's one of the consequences we're seeing, is that the greening of the tundra, the greening of the Arctic, is leading to an increase in expansion of vegetation up into the higher elevations.

[Darroch] I'm a bird biologist; that's my academic background.

[Darroch] So everywhere I go, I carry my binoculars with me.

[Darroch] And basically every bird I've seen, I write down a note on what species it is, how many are there, and whether there's any breeding evidence.

[Darroch] So at the same time, you're seeing shrubs change in this national park.

[Darroch] We're seeing the bird communities respond.

[Darroch] We have a lot of information to suggest that species should be shifting their ranges northward as global warming proceeds, and I've actually seen that with some of the data I've got here.

[Darroch] Some of the observations show that a whole group of boreal bird species are starting to colonize the Torngat Mountains.

[Darroch] This is exactly the kind of habitat that a lot of the boreal birds that are expanding in the national park are using...

[Darroch] ...they're moving into these areas, these thickets.

[Darroch] This is actually interesting because we have some historical photos of this location from a camp that was here in 1990.

[Darroch] These things are alders.

[Darroch] They're about two metres tall now.

[Darroch] These weren't here 30 years ago.

[Darroch] So Holly's measuring the height of the dwarf birch at one of our plots here,

[Darroch] we'll do five of these plots at each site.

[Holly] So, this one's actually, like, a 44. Yep... Catkin...and no browse.

[Darroch] Okay. Done here and we'll go on to the next one.

[Darroch] So we're here at Ramah Bay in Torngat Mountains National Park.

[Darroch] This is our last day of real fieldwork for 2021.

[Darroch] It's been a pretty successful year, although a little bit more damage than usual to some of our monitoring equipment.

[Darroch] We're just downloading a few last air temperature and soil temperature loggers and doing some repairs.

[Darroch] What's the story?

[Holly] So, it should be fine...we just need to put a new bracket on it.

[Darroch] Okay.

[Darroch] So we're all finished at Ramah Bay for this year.

[Darroch] We've got a slightly taller post installed, jerry-rigged with the parts that we had available to us today.

[Darroch] Fingers crossed for 2022 that the bears can't reach our air temperature logger on top and pull it down.

[Darroch] So it's August 13th, our last day in Torngat Mountain's Base Camp and Research Station.

[Darroch] We're just heading out to visit a research site from the doctoral research of Dr. Laura Siegwart Collier, who works for Parks Canada.

[Darroch] She's here behind me and we're going out to visit some "OTCs" or open-top chambers.

[Laura] So these simulate climate change and effects on tundra plants...

[Laura] and we're going to see how they're doing several years after they were put out here.

[Laura] So, what it does, what it's meant to do, is to block wind so that you have less heat loss for the ground vegetation.

[Laura] And it's been shown that these greenhouses increase temperature by about one degree Celsius compared to places where they don't have a greenhouse.

[Laura] The vegetation are growing taller, they're shrubbier, there's just generally more plant biomass inside these little greenhouses when compared to our outside plots.

Torngat Mountains National Park is cooperatively managed between Parks Canada and Inuit from Nunatsiavut and Nunavik. Together, they use Inuit Knowledge and science to track landscape changes and ease potential impacts. Watch the video in Inuktitut.

ᐱᓇᓱᕝᕕᒥ ᐊᓪᓚᓯᒪᔪᑦ: ᖁᐸᓄᐊᑦ ᓯᕗᓂᑦᓴᖓ ᓯᓚᒥ ᐊᓯᑦᔨᕙᓪᓕᐊᔪᒥ

Text transcript

[Darroch] ᑖᕈᒃ ᒍᐃᑦᑕᐃᑰᕗᖓ.

[Darroch] ᐆᒪᔪᓕᕆᔨᐅᕗᖓ ᑲᓇᑕᐅᑉ ᒥᕐᖑᐃᓯᕐᕕᖓᓂ.

[Darroch] ᐊᑐᐃᓐᓇᕈᕐᑎᐸᓪᓕᐊᕗᖓ ᐅᓪᓗᒥ ᐆᒪᓂᓕᓐᓂᒃ ᓇᔪᒐᕐᒥᓂ ᕿᒥᕐᕈᓚᖓᒐᒃᑭᑦ ᖃᐅᔨᓴᕐᓂᖅ ᑑᕐᖓᑦ ᖃᕐᖃᖏᑦᑕ ᑲᓇᑕᒥ ᒥᕐᖑᐃᓯᕐᕕᖓᓂ.

[Darroch] ᖁᓕᒥᒎᕐᑎᕗᑦ, ᑫᐅᓪ, ᖁᓕᒥᒎᒥᒃ ᐊᑐᐃᓐᓇᕈᕐᕆᔪᖅ ᑐᓄᑦᑎᓂ.

[Darroch] ᐊᐅᓪᓚᓯᕗᒍᑦ ᑕᒫᖕᖓᑦ ᑑᕐᖓᑦ ᖃᕐᖃᖏᑦᑕ ᑕᒻᒫᓯᒪᕕᖓᓂᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᖃᐅᔨᓴᕐᕕᖓᓂᑦ, ᐊᐅᓚᑦᓯᕕᕗᑦ ᒥᕐᖑᐃᓯᕐᕕᒥ ᐱᓇᓱᓕᕋᑦᑕ.

[Darroch] ᐊᒥᓱᑦ ᐱᓇᓱᓲᕗᑦ ᑑᕐᖓᑦ ᖃᕐᖃᖏᓐᓂ ᑲᓇᑕᒥ ᒥᕐᖑᐃᓯᕐᕕᒃ ᑲᒪᒋᔭᐅᓯᒪᕗᖅ ᓯᓚᐅᑉ ᐊᓯᑦᔨᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᑲᒪᔪᓄᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓯᓚᐅᑉ ᐊᓯᑦᔨᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᖓᓄᑦ ᓱᕐᕋᑕᐅᒪᔪᑦ ᐆᒪᔪᐃᑦ ᓇᔪᒐᖓᓂ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐊᕙᑎ ᒥᕐᖑᐃᓯᕐᕕᒥ.

[Darroch] ᐃᓚᖏᑦ ᑕᑯᖃᑦᑕᓕᕐᑕᕗᑦ ᐱᕙᓪᐊᑎᓪᓗᒋᑦ, ᑕᐃᓲᕗᑦ ᑐᕐᕈᓯᕙᓪᓕᐊᓂᕐᒥᒃ.

[Darroch] ᑕᐃᒪᐃᑦᑐᖅ ᑲᓇᑕᐅᑉ ᑕᕐᕋᓕᒫᖓᓂ, ᑭᓯᐊᓂ ᐱᓗᐊᕐᑐᒥᒃ, ᓄᓇᐅᑉ ᐆᒪᔪᐃᑦ ᓇᔪᒐᖓᓂ ᐊᓯᑦᔨᐸᓪᓕᐊᓱᓂ ᑐᕐᕈᓂᕐᓴᒧᑦ ᐆᒪᔪᐃᑦ ᐃᓂᖓᓄᑦ.

[Darroch] ᒫᓂ ᖃᕐᖃᐅᑉ ᓴᓂᕌᓂ ᓇᒃᕙᒃ ᑰᖓᓂ, ᑕᑯᒍᓐᓇᑕᐃᑦ ᓄᓇᐅᔭᖅ ᐱᕈᕐᐸᓕᐊᔪᖅ ᓇᕐᓴᐅᑉ ᓴᓂᕋᖏᓐᓂ.

[Darroch] ᑖᓐᓇ ᓱᕐᕋᑕᐅᓂᖏᑦᑕ ᐃᓚᖓ ᑕᑯᓐᓇᑕᕗᑦ, ᓄᓇᐅᑉ ᑐᖑᔪᕐᓯᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᖓ, ᐅᑭᐅᕐᑕᑑᑉ ᑐᖑᔪᕐᓯᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᖓ, ᐱᕈᕐᑐᑖᕐᐸᓕᐊᑎᑦᓯᕗᖅ ᐳᕐᑐᓂᕐᓴᓂ ᐃᓂᓂ.

[Darroch] ᑎᒻᒥᐊᓂᒃ ᖃᐅᔨᓴᕐᑎᐅᕗᖓ, ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᓯᒪᓂᕋ.

[Darroch] ᓇᒧᖕᖓᓂᓕᒫᕋᓂ ᕿᕐᖑᑏᒃᑲ ᓇᑦᓴᓲᒃᑲ.

[Darroch] ᖁᐸᓄᐊᑦ ᑕᑯᓯᒪᔭᓕᒫᒃᑲ, ᐊᓪᓚᓲᒃᑲ ᖃᓄᐃᑦᑑᒪᖔᑕ, ᖃᑦᓯᐅᒪᖔᑕ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐅᓪᓗᖃᓕᓂᐅᒻᒪᖔᑕ.

[Darroch] ᑕᐃᑲᓂᑦᓴᐃᓇᖅ, ᓄᓇᒥᒃ ᑐᕐᕈᓯᕙᓪᓕᐊᔪᒥᑦ ᑕᑯᖃᑦᑕᖁᖓ ᑕᒃᑲᓂ ᑲᓇᑕᐅᑉ ᒥᕐᖑᐃᓯᕐᕕᖓᓂ.

[Darroch] ᑕᑯᖃᑦᑕᕐᑯᒍᑦ ᑎᒻᒥᐊᓂᒃ ᐊᐅᓚᑦᔭᐸᓪᓕᐊᔪᓂᒃ.

[Darroch] ᐊᒥᓱᓂᒃ ᑐᓴᕋᑦᓴᖃᕐᑐᒍᑦ ᖃᓄᕐᑑᕈᑎᓂᒃ ᑖᑦᑯᓄᖓ ᐆᒪᔪᓄᑦ ᐊᓯᑦᔩᒐᔭᕐᑐᓂᒃ ᖃᓂᖕᖏᓂᕐᒥᓂᒃ ᑕᕐᕋᒧᐊᕐᓗᑎᒃ ᐅᕐᖂᓯᕙᓪᓕᐊᓂᖅ ᓄᓇᕐᔪᐊᒥ ᐱᕙᓪᓕᐊᑎᓪᓗᒍ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᑕᑯᓯᒪᓕᕐᓱᖓ ᑖᑦᓱᒥᖓ ᑲᑎᕐᓱᐊᓂᒃ ᒫᓂ ᐱᓯᒪᔭᒃᑲᓂᒃ.

[Darroch] ᐃᓚᖏᑦ ᑕᑯᓐᓇᑕᐅᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᓄᐃᑦᓯᕗᑦ ᐃᒻᒥᒎᕐᑎᑐᑦ ᑕᕐᕋᒥ ᖁᐸᓄᐊᓂᒃ ᓄᓇᑖᕐᐸᓕᐊᔪᓂᒃ ᑑᕐᖓᑦ ᖃᕐᖃᖏᓐᓂ.

[Darroch] ᑕᒪᓐᓇᓯᐊᓪᓚᕆᑕᒐ ᑕᐃᒪᐃᑦᑐᖅ ᐃᓂ ᑕᕐᕋᒥᐅᑕᐃᑦ ᖁᐸᓄᐊᑦ ᐊᒥᓱᑦ ᐊᒥᓱᖕᖑᐸᓪᓕᐊᔪᑦ ᑲᓇᑕᒥ ᒥᖕᖑᐃᓯᕐᕕᖓᓂ ᐊᑐᕐᓕᕐᑐᑦ…

[Darroch] ... ᓅᑉᐸᓕᐊᔪᑦ ᑖᒃᑯᓄᖓ ᐃᓂᓄᑦ, ᑖᒃᑯᓄᖓ ᐅᕐᐱᓄᑦ.

[Darroch] ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᖃᐅᔨᒍᒥᓇᑐᕋᑕᖅ ᐊᑦᔨᖑᐊᖃᕋᑦᑕ ᓄᑕᐅᖕᖏᑐᓂᒃ ᑕᒪᑦᓱᒥᖓ ᐃᓂᒥᒃ ᑕᒻᒫᓯᒪᕕᒻᒥᑦ ᑕᒫᓃᓚᐅᕐᓯᒪᔪᒥᒃ 1990-ᒥ.

[Darroch] ᐅᑯᐊ ᓇᐹᕐᑐᑎᑦ.

[Darroch] ᒪᕐᕉᓂᒃ ᒦᑖᓐᓂᒃ ᑕᑭᓂᖃᒐᓚᓕᕐᑐᑦ.

[Darroch] ᑖᒃᑯᐊ ᐱᑕᖃᓚᐅᕐᓯᒪᖕᖏᑐᑦ ᐅᑭᐅᑦ 30 ᓈᓕᕐᑐᑦ.

[Darroch] ᖄᓕ ᓱᕐᖄᑎᕆᔪᖅ ᐅᕐᐲᑦ ᑕᑭᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᐱᓇᓱᕝᕕᑕ ᐃᓚᖓᓂ,

[Darroch] ᒫᓂ, ᑕᓪᓕᒪᓂᒃ ᓱᕐᖄᑎᕆᓚᖓᕗᒍᒃ ᐅᑯᓇᓂ ᐃᓂᓂ ᐊᑐᓂ ᓴᓂᕋᖏᓐᓂ.

[Holly] ᑕᐃᒪ, ᐅᓇ, 44-ᓂᒃ ᑕᑭᓂᖃᓪᓚᕆᑦᑐᖅ. ᐋ… ᑳᑦᑭᓐ…ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓂᕆᔭᐅᓂᐅᒐᓂ.

[Darroch] ᖃᓄᐃᖕᖏᑐᖅ. ᒫᓂ ᐱᔭᕇᕐᑐᖓ ᑐᖓᓕᖓᓅᓚᖓᓯᕗᒍᒃ.

[Darroch] ᕌᒪᐅᑉ ᑲᖏᕐᓱᖓᓃᒃᑯᒍᒃ ᑑᕐᖓ ᖃᕐᖃᖏᑦᑕ ᑲᓇᑕᒥ ᒥᕐᖑᐃᓯᕐᕕᖓᓂ.

[Darroch] ᑖᓐᓇ ᐅᓪᓗᒃ ᐱᓇᓱᓐᓂᓚᕆᒋᓱᖓᓕᕐᑕᕗᒃ 2021-ᒥ.

[Darroch] ᑲᔪᓯᑦᓯᐊᑐᐹᓗᒃ ᐊᕐᕌᒍᖅ, ᓱᒃᑯᓯᒪᓂᕐᓴᒐᓚᐃᑦ ᖃᐅᔨᓴᕈᑎᕗᑦᑕ ᐃᓚᖏᑦ ᑭᓯᐊᓂ.

[Darroch] ᓄᐊᑦᓯᑐᐃᓐᓇᖁᒍᒃ ᓯᓚᐅᑉ ᐅᕐᖂᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᑭᖑᓪᓕᐹᓂᒃ ᓄᓇᐅᓪᓗ ᐅᕐᖂᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᐊᓪᓚᒍᑎᓂᒃ ᐋᕐᕿᓱᐃᑦᓱᓄᓪᓗ ᓱᒃᑯᓯᒪᔪᓂᒃ.

[Darroch] ᓱᓇᐅᕚ?

[Holly] ᑕᒐ, ᖃᓄᐃᑦᑐᓴᐅᑦᔭᖏᓪᓚᖅ…ᓄᑖᒥᒃ ᕿᕋᑦᑕᕈᓯᑐᐃᓐᓇᕆᐊᓕᕗᒃ.

[Darroch] ᖃᓄᐃᖕᖏᑐᖅ.

[Darroch] ᑕᒐ ᐱᔭᕇᕐᖁᒍᑦ ᕌᒪᐅᑉ ᑲᖏᕐᓱᖓᓂ ᑕᒃᑲᓂ ᐅᑭᐅᒥ.

[Darroch] ᐃᓕᓯᕗᒍᑦ ᑕᑭᓂᕐᓴᒐᓛᐱᒻᒥᒃ ᓇᐸᔪᒥᒃ, ᓴᓇᒐᓚᑐᐃᓐᓇᓯᒪᔪᒥᒃ ᐃᓚᑦᓴᓂᒃ ᐊᑐᐃᓐᓇᕆᑲᐃᓐᓇᑕᑎᓐᓂᒃ ᐅᓪᓗᒥ.

[Darroch] 2022-ᒥ ᓇᓄᐃᑦ ᑎᑭᐅᑎᒍᓐᓇᖏᓚᐅᕐᐸᑕ ᓯᓚᐅᑉ ᐅᕐᑰᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᐊᓪᓚᒍᑎᒥᒃ ᖄᖓᓃᑦᑐᒥᒃ ᐅᕐᕈᑎᓗᒍᓗ.

[Darroch] ᑕᐃᒪ ᐅᓪᓗᒥ ᐊᐅᒡᒍᓯ 13-ᖑᕗᖅ, ᐅᓪᓗ ᑭᖑᓪᓕᐹᕗᑦ ᑑᕐᖓᑦ ᖃᕐᖃᖏᑦᑕ ᑕᒻᒫᓯᒪᕕᖓᓂ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᖃᐅᔨᓴᕐᕕᖓᓂ.

[Darroch] ᐳᓛᕆᐊᕐᐸᓕᐊᕗᒍᒃ ᖃᐅᔨᓴᕐᕕᐅᑉ ᐃᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᐋᓐᓂᐊᓯᐅᕐᑎᒪᕆᐅᑉ ᖃᐅᔨᓴᕐᕕᖓᓂᑦ ᐋᓐᓂᐊᓯᐅᕐᑎᒪᕆᐅᑉ ᓚᐅᕋ ᓰᒃᕗᑦ ᑳᓕᐅ, ᑲᓇᑕᒥ ᒥᕐᖑᐃᓯᕐᕕᒧᑦ ᐱᓇᓱᑦᑎᑦ.

[Darroch] ᑐᓄᒐᓃᑦᑐᖅ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐳᓛᕆᐊᓯᑦᓱᓄᒃ OTC-ᓂᒃ ᐅᕝᕙᓘᓐᓃᑦ ᖁᓛᒍᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᔪᓂᒃ ᖃᕆᐊᕐᓂᒃ.

[Laura] ᑕᒐ ᑖᒃᑯᐊ ᐃᑦᔪᐊᓯᔪᑦ ᓯᓚᐅᑉ ᐊᓯᑦᔨᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓱᕐᕋᐃᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᓄᓇᒥ ᐱᕈᕐᑐᓂᒃ…

[Laura] ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᖃᓄᐃᒻᒪᖔᑕ ᑕᑯᓂᐊᓯᔭᕗᒃ ᐅᑭᐅᓂᒃ ᐊᒥᓱᒐᓚᓐᓂᒃ ᐋᕐᑭᑕᐅᓯᒪᓕᕐᑎᓗᒋᑦ ᑕᒪᐅᖓ.

[Laura] ᑕᒐ, ᐃᒪᐃᓲᖑᕗᖅ, ᓱᒍᑎᒋᒋᐊᓕᖓ, ᐊᓄᕆᒥᒃ ᓄᕐᖃᑎᑦᓯᒋᐊᖃᕐᖁᖅ ᕿᐅᔭᓇᕐᓯᓗᐊᕐᓂᐊᖏᒻᒪᑦ ᓄᓇᒥ ᐱᕈᕐᑐᓄᑦ.

[Laura] ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᑕᑯᑦᓴᐅᑎᑕᐅᓯᒪᕗᖅ ᑖᒃᑯᐊ ᐱᕈᕐᓰᕖᑦ ᓂᕈᒥᑦᓯᒋᐊᕆᓲᖑᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᑕᐅᓯᕐᒧᑦ ᓂᕈᒥᓐᓂᒧᑦ ᓯᐅᓪᓯᐊᔅᒧᑦ ᐃᑉᐱᒋᑦᓱᒋᑦ ᐃᓃᑦ ᐱᕈᕐᓰᕕᖃᖕᖏᑐᑦ.

[Laura] ᐱᕈᕐᑐᐃᑦ ᑕᑭᓕᕙᓪᓕᐊᔪᑦ, ᑐᕐᕈᓂᕐᓴᐅᓱᑎᒃ, ᐱᕈᕐᑐᖃᕐᓂᓴᐅᕗᖅ ᐃᓘᓐᓈᒍᑦ ᑖᒃᑯᐊ ᐱᕈᕐᓰᕖᑦ ᐃᓗᐊᓂ ᓯᓚᒥ ᐱᓇᓱᕝᕕᕗᑦ ᑕᑯᓐᓇᓱᒋᑦ.

Birds on the move

Every species of bird needs certain environmental conditions to thrive. These include things like temperature, precipitation, suitable habitat, and landscape connectivity. When conditions are no longer suitable, birds may be forced to relocate—or perish.

A small bird with grey and copper coloured plumage is perched on a tree.
The Boreal Chickadee is expected to lose much of its current habitat due to climate change.

Keeping it fresh

A grey and white coloured bird is perched on the branch of an evergreen tree in the wintertime.
Canada Jays are finding it harder to store their winter food supplies as the climate warms.

Meet the iconic Canada Jay. This songbird is one of the first species to nest in Canada's cold boreal forest each year. They start to build their nests and lay eggs as early as February and March.

Canada Jays survive by hiding small food caches in thousands of spots to get them through the winter and nesting season. They depend on cold winter temperatures to keep this food fresh and nutritious.

Warmer winters are causing these birds to suffer. Their precious food stores are decaying from regular freeze-thaw events. This is reducing the nutritional value of their food. It is also leading to failed nests and lower populations.

Watch the Canada Jay’s predicted range change as the climate warms from 1.5 to 3°C


Parks Canada Beaver Logo

[Canada Jay chirping and forest noises]

A Canada Jay sits perched on a branch in front of a boreal forest, moving its head slightly.

[Text on screen: As climate changes, birds’ ranges are shifting.]

[Label: Canada Jay, Perisoreus canadensis]

A dark green map of Canada showing Parks Canada National Parks and Marine Conservation Areas appears, along with an illustration of a Canada Jay in the upper left corner.

The Canada Jay’s summertime range under current temperatures appears as a bright green area that spans across much of Canada. The bright green colour represents a stable range.

The temperature scenario changes to +1.5° C warming. The Canada Jay’s summertime range begins to shift; a small portion of the range in the south turns red, indicating a portion of that range is lost. The middle portion of the range remains bright green, or stable. A small section of blue appears in the north, indicating Canada Jays are predicted to gain range in the north.

The temperature scenario changes to +2° C warming. The Canada Jay’s predicted range shifts further north. The portion of their stable range shrinks, as it loses range in the south and gains range in the north.

The temperature scenario changes to +3° C warming. The Canada Jay’s predicted range shows dramatic losses in the south, very little stable range remaining, and a moderate amount of range gained in the north (though, less range than what was lost in the south).

The range change is repeated three times.

Text along the bottom indicates that the animation is “Based on Audubon visualization by Stamen Design”.

Government of Canada logo


Even minor changes in climate can have major consequences. The negative impacts of climate change will be much less if we can keep global warming to 1.5°C instead of 2°C.

A white owl with yellow eyes and spotted plumage hides on the ground among dried grass.
The Snowy Owl’s Arctic breeding range is highly vulnerable to loss due to climate change.

Protecting birds—together

Parks Canada, the National Audubon Society, Birds Canada, and the Canadian Wildlife Service are collaborating to better understand how climate change could affect bird species in protected and conserved areas.

A week-old Common Loon chick rides on its mother's back as its father swims past.
The Common Loon’s current summer and winter range will shift in many areas due to climate change.
A bird with black and white plumage swims in the dark blue water.
The Common Loon. Photo: Janelle MacLeod/Parks Canada

Their research findings predict that if climate change continues, bird communities across all places administered by Parks Canada will be different by 2050. Sites in the Atlantic, Quebec, and Great Lakes regions are expected to see the greatest changes in species composition.

A Parks Canada employee stands and smiles on the shore while carrying a tripod with a telephoto lens attached to it.
Dr. Scott Parker, Ecosystem Scientist with Parks Canada, wrapping up a shorebird survey.

Finding a new home

As the climate continues to change, some birds may need to find new homes. In mountainous regions, that could mean moving up to higher elevations. In most other areas, it will mean a move northward.

A close-up profile of a bird with a red chest, brown head, and yellow beak.
The American Robin is expected to stay further north in new national parks during the winter.
A red bird stands on the ground among branches with twigs in its mouth.
The American Robin. Photo: Janelle MacLeod/Parks Canada

Some birds may not find enough or suitable habitat conditions, and therefore would not survive. This could lead to population declines and shrinking ranges.

A small bird with a yellow spotted belly and grey head is perched on the branch of an evergreen tree.
The Magnolia Warbler may not be able to stay in many places where it currently nests due to climate change. Photo: Janelle MacLeod/Parks Canada
A small bird with a yellow spotted belly and grey head is perched on a branch with an insect in its mouth.
The Magnolia Warbler.

This search for new homes is a big challenge for birds. In their journey to migrate, birds face risks like predators, bad weather, lack of familiar foods and habitat, and exhaustion. New neighbours may not be welcoming.

A taller looking bird with many colours and patterns on its plumage stands on the ground among branches.
The Ring-necked Pheasant, an Asian species that was introduced to North America, is projected to become more common in many of Canada’s national parks as the climate changes.
A red bird with pointed head feathers is perched on a branch. A light brown bird with pointed head feathers is perched on another.
The male and female Northern Cardinal are also being spotted in places where they never used to live before.

“We can’t assume that generalist species will do any better than specialized species. But it is fair to expect that those species already experiencing habitat loss, like grassland birds, will continue to suffer the most. Adapting to climate change will be tough for all birds.”

Dr. Scott Parker
Ecosystem Scientist at Parks Canada.

American Goldfinch.

Space for birds to breathe—to adapt

Protected and conserved areas give birds and other wildlife breathing space, allowing them to adapt and survive. These areas are still impacted by climate change. However, they may have fewer stressors, like habitat loss by human encroachment, resource extraction, and pollution.

A small bird with brown and black striped plumage stands on a branch.
The summer habitat of the White-throated Sparrow is vulnerable to climate change. It will depend more on protected areas to adapt and continue thriving. Photo: Janelle MacLeod/Parks Canada
A small bird with brown and black striped plumage and a yellow accent on its face stands on a branch.
The White-throated Sparrow.

These areas are becoming “climate refuges”; places where the effects of climate change are less pronounced. In these places, mountains allow species to move upslope to cooler climates. Lakes can absorb heat and produce cooling breezes. Healthy ecosystems may be more resilient to stressors.

Vulnerable bird species, like the endangered Whooping Crane in Wood Buffalo National Park, will depend more on protected areas as their environment changes.

Two large white birds are standing.
Whooping Cranes were at the brink of extinction in the 1940s, but are returning thanks to decades of work, research, and other recovery actions at Wood Buffalo National Park.
Large birds with long necks and legs stand on the shore.
The Great Blue Heron is projected to use more protected areas during its migrations. Photo: Janelle MacLeod/Parks Canada

Parks Canada works with partners to conserve bird habitats beyond park boundaries. They create habitat “stepping stones” that improve connections between protected areas. These give birds and other wildlife a chance to move and adapt.

Two white and brown spotted owls stand on a log while sharing a gaze.
Two Snowy Owls share a moment as they watch for prey in British Columbia.

Your role in protecting birds

Fewer birds will need to find new homes if we can work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming and its impacts. As well, by doing your part to reduce other human caused stresses on bird populations and the environment.

A red bird with brown and white wings and a curved beak is perched on a branch.
Much of the White-winged Crossbill’s habitat is projected to be lost from climate change. The impact of this can be reduced if we work together to slow climate change.
A brown and yellow bird with brown and white wings and a curved beak is perched on a branch.
A female White-winged Crossbill. Photo: Janelle MacLeod/Parks Canada

Birds can’t fight climate change, only we can. If we act now, we can reduce the impact of climate change and improve the chances for hundreds of bird species.

How you can help birds

A white and black cat walks down a ribbed plank within an enclosed area.
Millie the cat loves her new “catio” (and the birds love it too!). Photos: Darroch Whitaker/Parks Canada
The white and black cat sits and watches from within its multi-level enclosure.

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