Grand Canyon’s Bald Eagle Population Possibly Threatened by Climate Change
According to a report by National Park scientists and the Audubon Society, the effects of climate change could possibly lead to the extinction of the bald eagle.
The report states that it had examined climate change’s relationship with bird populations in 257 national park sites. Based on their findings, it’s determined that climate change has a significant impact on birds and their habitats. While bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 2007, a change in climate could be deadly for the national bird.
A brief snippet of the report states that, “Golden and Bald Eagles, however, are expected to decline, with the latter possibly going locally extinct. Much will depend on the continued flows of the Colorado River, where Bald Eagles congregate and hunt, and how that waterway continues to be managed.”
Other birds of prey, such as the gray hawk and white-tailed kite, are expected to migrate to the area. The Grand Canyon’s peregrine falcon population is also currently expanding. With this influx of birds, it hurts the bald eagle’s chances since it has more competition when hunting for prey.
Climate change not only affects birds, but wildlife as a whole. Summer wildfires can kill and burn the habitats of squirrels, sheep, and deer. Droughts can limit wildlife’s access to fresh water, which can kill animals either through dehydration or lack of a fish population available as a food source.
“Birds are useful indicators of ecological change because they are highly mobile, responsive, and generally conspicuous,” says the report. “They are also popular with visitors to national parks; bird-watching is a $107-billion industry in the U.S. that involves 47 million people annually.”
The study also argues that the population of not just bald eagles, but all birds in general would be heavily impacted by climate change. In the U.S. and Canada, around 21% of species are so sensitive to climate change that they could lose half of their suitable population ranges by the year 2050.
While the bald eagle’s population has been affected by conflicts over water management, tribal lands, and nesting areas, the biggest emerging threat to its existence appears to be the environment itself.