Ground Report | New Delhi: Birds migrate climate change; A species of bird that migrates between northern Russia and southern Europe has begun to appear in parts of western Europe where it has not been seen before.
In an article published in the journal Current Biology, a group of French scientists describes their study of data that describe alterations in the migration patterns of the so-called Richard’s pipit. Evidence for such changes in birds, the researchers note, is rare. Birds generally like to keep their routes stable.
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Historically, Richard’s Pipits breed in Siberia during the summer and then fly southwest to South Asia. In recent years, some “vagrants” have been seen in other areas, but their presence has been attributed to lapses in navigation. But more recently, their numbers have risen to several dozen in places like southern France, evidence of a real shift in the migration pattern. (Birds migrate climate change)
To learn more about the change, researchers led by Paul Dufour of the University of Grenoble Alpes began collecting data on bird sightings from both academic and hobbyist birding groups. They also marked some of the birds that were found in unusual places to find out if they returned to the new place year after year.
They found that most did, another sign that the birds were not only lost but had changed their winter destination home. The researchers note that the change for birds is particularly remarkable because, unlike many other migratory species, they travel alone, so they do not receive signals from other birds about landing sites. They are also unique in that they travel much farther than most other species that migrate east and west.
The researchers believe that the detour may have been facilitated by climate change. Dufour and his team used computer models that estimate climatic suitability for pipits in Europe based on variables such as temperature and precipitation. The researchers compared two periods, from 1961 to 1990 and from 1990 to 2018, and found that warmer temperatures in the last period have made most of southern Europe a better wintering ground for birds than before.
The selection of European wintering grounds may also imply the deterioration of ancestral sites in South Asia, but researchers have not yet investigated this. Climate change could be affecting that too, says Dufour. But “we suspect that habitat modification in Southeast Asia (increasing urbanization, less open areas) may also be part of the equation.”