Bird hatchlings

In springtime, baby birds hatch and huddle in their nests, featherless and vulnerable. The survival of these hatchlings is highly dependent on temperature.

Tingley: “When they are eggs, and when they are sort of helpless, naked young living in nests, those are the periods of a bird’s life when it might be most sensitive to climate.”

Morgan Tingley is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut. His research shows that in response to the warming climate, some birds are changing their breeding times.

Tingley: “Over a period of about 70 to 80 years, 164 species of birds in California had shifted their breeding time – so the timing of egg laying and egg hatching – by about nine days.”

Tingley says that by making the shift, these birds are laying eggs at the same temperatures they did a century ago, which can help protect vulnerable hatchlings.

It’s good news that birds are finding ways to adapt, he says. But, they still face threats from climate change. For example, warming temperatures can reduce the availability of food, or threaten habitat.

Tingley: “It does not mean that birds have sort of unlimited capacity to respond to climate change.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Diana Madson

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...