One of the biggest questions hanging over the birding world is what will the rapid changes in the environment mean for various species. In a piece in The Miami Herald running this weekend, we return to a topic from a few months ago and try to go much deeper into what’s known — and what so far is unknowable — about the affects of climate and habitat change.
Here’s a link to the Miami Herald package: It’s built around the story of the Roseate Spoonbill, which is showing surprising flexibility in adapting to Florida’s shifting environment. For reasons that date to its origins in the dinosaur era, the Spoonbill has found a solution to rising levels and dropping quality of water in its breeding grounds in southernmost Florida.
It has moved inland, even though it prefers coastal areas for breeding, and has ranged as far north as the Carolinas, even though it tends to be a homebody. As Mark Cook, a scientist with the South Florida Water Management District, put it, “It’s amazing to me that they’re able to move inland and become more of a freshwater species.”
But this isn’t altogether a good news story. The Spoonbill’s success stands out at a time when so many species are showing signs of decline around the world. That’s driven by a host of human factors, including the loss of habitat, the deterioration in quality of the environment they rely on, the loss of food sources, the rise in the outdoor cat populations and hazards such as the spread of windmills and tall glass buildings that millions of birds crash into every year.