Maryland’s Baltimore orioles could vanish altogether in this century due to dramatic changes in migration patterns influenced by global warming.

A new study due out soon from the National Wildlife Federation and the American Bird Conservancy suggests that the effects of global warming may be robbing Maryland and other states of an important piece of their heritage by hastening the departures of their state birds. The report says the Earth?s rising temperature is changing songbird ranges, altering migration behavior and diminishing some species? ability to survive.

The ranges of some state birds could shrink or shift entirely to areas outside the states they represent. That could mean Iowa and Washington state would eventually lose the American goldfinch, New Hampshire would lose the purple finch, California would lose the California quail, Massachusetts the black-capped chickadee, Georgia would lose the brown thrasher and Maryland would lose its beloved Baltimore oriole.

Baltimore orioles were once so common that the painter John Audubon wrote about the delight of ?the melody resulting from thousands of musical voices that come from some neighboring tree.?

Ornithologists and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have long warned that many common songbird species, including blue jays, wood thrushes and Baltimore orioles, have been steadily declining. Scientists have always blamed the Baltimore oriole?s gradual decline on the destruction of its breeding habitat and forests both in North America, where the bird spends its summers, and in Central and South America, where it winters. Now they also blame global warming.

?Climate change on top of fragmented habitat is the straw that breaks the camel?s back,? says Patricia Glick, an expert on climate change with the National Wildlife Federation.

The life cycles and behavior of birds are closely linked to the changing seasons. For migrant species such as the Baltimore oriole, changes in the weather help signal when they should begin their long flights southward in the fall and back again in the spring. Variables such as temperature and precipitation also affect the timing and availability of flowers, seeds and other food sources for the birds when they reach their destination.

Research on migratory birds in North America shows that the arrival dates of 20 species were up to 21 days earlier in 1994 than in 1965, while only a few species were later.The new study shows that as regional temperatures rise, the ranges of a number of species in the Northern Hemisphere could shift north as they seek habitat and food to which they have become adapted. The eastern Midwest and Great Lakes region could be the hardest hit, with up to a 30 percent net loss in the number of migrant species that summer in the region.

?Imagine Baltimore without the Baltimore oriole,? says Mark Van Putten, president of the National Wildlife Federation. ?Left unchecked, global warming could cause the birds we love to watch and even celebrate on state emblems to disappear from places they?ve lived for eons.?

To learn more, read ?The Coming Global Superstorm? by Whitley Strieber and Art Bell, now only 49.95 for a signed hardcover,click here.

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