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French birds on the move due to climate change—just not fast enough

French birds on the move due to climate change—just not fast enough

French birds on the move due to climate change—just not fast enough

Jeremy Hance,
August 21, 2008

French ornithologists have discovered, year by year, that French birds are moving north due to the affects of climate change. A recent study of such movements in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B concludes that the birds are not moving fast enough, leading to concern among conservationists.

For 19 years French ornithologists have performed surveys of bird populations. Employing volunteers to help, these massive surveys have recorded the movements of 105 species in 1500 plots of study incorporating all habitat types. From 1989 to 2006 the French ornithologists write that 99.5 percent of the species moved north an average of 91 kilometers (56.5 miles). However, temperatures have increased three times as fast, moving 273 kilometers (170 miles) in the same 17 years.

The scientists believe that rare species may be vulnerable to extinction due to this inability to keep up with a changing climate, but common species and generalists are likely to remain stable. An additional concern, however, is whether birds and their prey, insects, are moving at the same rates. If insects are moving differently—either slower or faster—it could further stress bird populations, leading to a greater likelihood of extinction.

In an earlier interview with, bird expert Dr. Cagan H. Sekercioglu stated that he believed 2 out 5 bird species will become threatened due to the combined threat of climate change and habitat loss. “In our April 2008 paper in Conservation Biology,” Sekercioglu told, “we predicted that up to 30% of land birds may go extinct by 2100 due to a combination of climate change and habitat loss. Most worryingly, 79% of bird species we predicted to go extinct are not currently considered threatened with extinction.” Few of the birds recorded in the French studies are considered threatened, but according to the French ornithologists and Sekercioglu that could change rapidly.

The French study was headed by Dr. Vincent Devictor of Montpellier University with aid from Romain Julliard, Denis Couvet, and Frederic Jiguet.

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