Global Warming – Australia – Shrinking Bird Life

AUSTRALIAN birds are getting smaller and global warming is probably to blame, new research suggests.

An Australian National University and CSIRO study of museum specimens of eight bird species found they had shrunk between 2 and 4 per cent over the past century.

Chief researcher Janet Gardner, from the ANU’s research school of biology, said the results reflected that animals tended to be smaller in warmer climates.

Glabal Warming - Danger to Australian Birds

Glabal Warming - Danger to Australian Birds

Proportionally, small animals have a greater surface area compared to volume, allowing faster cooling and minimising heat stress.

But Dr Gardner said the extent of change in the south-eastern Australian species examined, including the grey-crowned babbler, hooded robin and speckled warbler, was surprising. Bird sizes found in Brisbane before 1950 were now common in Sydney, seven degrees of latitude to the south.

She said the results, published in British journal the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggested birds might have adapted to global warming of about 0.6 degrees since the late 1800s.

Another possibility for the change being caused by a decline in food supply or quality was all but ruled out after it was found that feather growth rates had not changed.

”Global warming is affecting fundamental biological processes and it is leading to significant changes in our wildlife,” Dr Gardner said. ”The predictions are that warming is going to increase in rate over the coming decades. Whether species can change rapidly enough and how much they can change in response to the temperature rise is of great concern.”

Other species examined in the initial study were the brown treecropper, jacky winter, yellow-rumped thornbill, white-browned scrubwren and variegated fairy-wren.By Adam Morton – THE AGE

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