Purple finch
Purple finch (Photo credit: Cephas).

The spruce forests of New York’s Whiteface Mountain are home to dozens of bird species, including yellow-bellied flycatchers, blackpoll warblers, and purple finches. Many of these birds have been moving uphill.

Ornithologist Jeremy Kirchman is curator of birds at the New York State Museum. He recently repeated a bird survey that was conducted on the mountain 40 years ago.

Kirchman: “What we found is that the majority of species, more than half, had shifted their ranges uphill.”

The elevation where each species is most abundant, on average, is about 270 feet higher.

Kirchman: “We hypothesize that that’s in response to the warming climate.”

Average daily high temperatures on the mountain have increased more than three degrees Fahrenheit over the past forty years. Kirchman suspects the birds are moving higher to find a more suitable climate.

For now, he says birds are still flourishing on Whiteface. But he’s concerned about species such as the Bicknell’s thrush that require high altitudes.

If birds already at the top of the mountain are pushed 'uphill', where will they go? Click To Tweet

Kirchman: “One of the things people have been worried about is if birds that were already at the top are being pushed uphill, that there’s no place for them to go and they’ll actually just become pinched off the top of the mountain.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

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