Environmental Protection Agency: Climate Change Indicators - Bird Wintering Ranges

This indicator examines changes in the winter ranges of North American birds.

This indicator looks collectively at the “center of abundance” of hundreds of widespread North American bird species over a 48-year period. The center of abundance is a point on the map that represents the middle of each species’ distribution. If a whole population of birds were to shift generally northward, one would see the center of abundance shift northward as well.

For year-to-year consistency, this indicator uses observations from the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which takes place every year in early winter. The Christmas Bird Count is a long-running citizen-science program in which individuals are organized by the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, local Audubon chapters, and other bird clubs to identify and count bird species. The data presented in this indicator were collected from more than 2,000 locations throughout the United States and parts of Canada. At each location, skilled observers follow a standard counting procedure to estimate the number of birds within a 15-mile diameter “count circle” over a 24-hour period. Study methods remain generally consistent from year to year. Data produced by the Christmas Bird Count go through several levels of review before Audubon scientists analyze the final data, which have been used to support a wide variety of peer-reviewed studies.

Science Topics
Biology, Climate Change, Ecology, Zoology
Middle School
6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade

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