Jul 30, 2014
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Bird Behavior Indicates Impending Human Demise

From habitat destruction to reproductive failure, the hazards wrought on birds by climate change predict the fate of the entire Bay Area ecosystem.

Bird Behavior Indicates Impending Human Demise Bird Behavior Indicates Impending Human Demise

 

The sun peeks in and out of the clouds over Charleston Slough on a crisp June morning. A dozen or so birdwatchers amble along a bayland trail, some tossing around bird jargon, others silent as they gaze through binoculars, their smiling mouths curved like the beaks of long-billed curlews. At a glance, the birds out on the lake look almost static—dark spots in the grey-green landscape. But through a good lens every ruffle of feathers, every delicate dip into the mud, is visible.

Framed by a binocular lens the life of birds looks almost like a separate reality, but science has shown that those birds and the people who watch them share one thing: an ecosystem threatened by global climate change. According to avian experts, birds not only share our ecosystem, but also serve as important indicators of its health. Scientists agree that whatever change happens, whether it’s habitat destruction or extreme weather events, it will manifest first in the environment’s most vulnerable species.   

“When birds are showing sides of distress, when there’s a drop in the bird population, then it’s a red flag. It’s a danger signal that something's wrong with the ecosystem,” said Bob Powers, executive director of the Santa Clara Audubon Society, who has worked to educate people about the dangers faced by both birds and humans.

As for the birds on the Peninsula coast, the loss of their habitat could serve as one of the most significant precursors to human distress. According to a San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, route: {:controller=>"listings", :action=>"show", :id=>"san-francisquito-creek-joint-powers-authority"} --> report, to 26 inches in the next 50 years, threatening infrastructure, homes and businesses in Silicon Valley such as Facebook, which recently moved into a building adjacent to

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