For those of us who are especially fond of the Eastern Towhee, this will be of 
particular interest.

“There is a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future on the 
planet.” Hans-Otto Partner, co-chair, 2022 IPCC working group

Begin forwarded message:

> From: The Cottonwood Post <>
> Date: May 31, 2022 at 1:12:19 AM EDT
> To:
> Subject: [New post] Eastern Towhee: Can the white-eyed subspecies survive 
> even 1.5C climate change?
> Reply-To: The Cottonwood Post 
> <>
>       The Cottonwood Post
> Eastern Towhee: Can the white-eyed subspecies survive even 1.5C climate 
> change?
> Stephen Carr Hampton
> May 30
> Pale-eyed and red-eyed forms diverged approximately 18,000 years ago. 
> Photo by Melissa James/Macauley Library.
> eBird abundance map for Eastern Towhee. It is resident in the southeast, but 
> expands north in summer.
> The Eastern Towhee, a bird of scrub and thickets, is a common resident in the 
> southeast United States. One subspecies migrates north in summer.
> They are a prime example of a species that is considered "Least Concern" by 
> the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but "High Risk" in 
> National Audubon's assessment of birds under climate change. In their 3.0 C 
> scenario, they predict it would lose 83% of its current breeding range, while 
> gaining only 23%.
> This is National Audubon's projection for the Eastern Towhee's breeding range 
> under just a 1.5C scenario. This would spell extinction for the white-eyed 
> birds of Florida and the deep South.
> Their winter range is not anticipated to change much.
> These projections are consistent with recent literature showing poleward 
> shifts of species ranges-- of the northern edge of their range, of the 
> southern edge, and of their range's geographic center. The predictions for 
> Eastern Towhee are among the most dramatic.
> Recent research also suggests that non-migratory and short-distance migrants 
> are more adaptable to climate change than are long-distance migrants, and 
> more able to shift their ranges. Indeed, we are already seeing that with 
> Eastern Towhee. The Audubon projections appear to be in progress.
> Based on Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data, the Eastern Towhee breeding 
> population in Florida has declined over 50% since the late 1990s. The timing 
> of this is consistent with worldwide ecological shifts which began in the 
> mid-1980s.
> The white-eyed subspecies appears to be already in trouble. eBirders in 
> Florida in May and June are encountering the species half as often as they 
> were just six years earlier.
> eBird data from Florida, focusing on frequency of lists reporting the species 
> during the May-June period, shows that the maximum frequency has fallen from 
> 18.3% in 2015 to 8.6% in 2021.
> Not all range shifts are due to climate. As a scrub specialist, the Eastern 
> Towhee prefers habitat that is in the act of regrowth, such as after a fire 
> or being cleared. But they don't want a forest either. To quote the Birds of 
> the World species account for Eastern Towhee: "As farmland is abandoned, 
> successional changes produce suitable midseral habitats that towhees favor, 
> and their numbers increase. But, successional time is against towhees, and 
> their numbers decrease as seres age." That may be the explanation for the 
> Georgia data (orange dots), which show a decline in the late 60s and early 
> 70s, possibly due to forest growth or land clearance for development, and 
> then a leveling off.  
> As the climate warms, many species are expanding north and/or declining in 
> the southern part of their range. But these need not happen simultaneously. 
> Opportunities for suitable habitat may open doors in the north, and doors may 
> close in the south, at different times. There is evidence of Eastern Towhee 
> expansion in Minnesota, but look at the vertical axis; it does not compare 
> with the losses in Florida.
> In Florida, the white-eyed subspecies faces extinction based on National 
> Audubon's 1.5C scenario. They appear to have declined dramatically in the 
> past two decades.
> Photo from National Audubon website that provides range change projections 
> under 1.5C, 2.0C, and 3.0C scenarios.
> For more on climate change impacts on birds, I invite you to join the Birds 
> and Climate Change Facebook group.
> Comment
> Like
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