Monday, January 8, 2018

Adirondack Birds Moving Uphill As Temperatures Warm

Whiteface April 13 2016A New York State Museum study shows that most of the bird species breeding on the slopes of Whiteface Mountain have shifted their ranges uphill in the last 40 years. The research, conducted by Dr. Jeremy Kirchman, Curator of Birds at the New York State Museum, and Alison Van Keuren, an avid birder who volunteers in the ornithology collection at the State Museum, sheds new light on the response of wildlife to observed climate change in upstate New York.

Kirchman and Van Keuren replicated bird surveys conducted in 1974 by Kenneth Able and Barry Noon, two former researchers at the University at Albany. For the re-survey, the pair of researchers made stops along the road up Whiteface Mountain to tally all birds seen and heard in the early morning and evening hours at altitudes from 550 to 1450 meters above sea level. These new data were gathered in June and July of 2013-2015.

Kirchman and Van Keuren found that for 42 species detected in both survey periods, the average elevational shift was +83 meters. Five species showed no elevational shift, 11 species shifted slightly downhill, while 26 species have shifted uphill, some by hundreds of meters. They also found that upper range boundaries (the highest elevation where a bird species was found) have shifted more than lower range boundaries, and that bird species diversity has nearly doubled in the last forty years at the highest survey point as several mid-elevation species have colonized the top of Whiteface Mountain.

The researchers also obtained surface temperature data collected each year since 1973 at a weather monitoring station at nearby Lake Placid, and found that average daily minimum and average daily maximum temperatures for the summer breeding season have risen steadily over the last 40 years, by a total of 4.43 °F (2.46 °C) and 3.38 °F (1.88 °C), respectively.

Kirchman has worked at the New York State Museum since 2006 and is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society and past member of the Board of Directors of both the New York State Ornithological Association and the Wilson Ornithological Society.

Since 2012, Van Keuren has volunteered two days per week at the State Museum, helping to catalog and digitize the extensive collection of bird egg specimens from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The paper describing this research is entitled, Altitudinal range shifts of birds at the southern periphery of the boreal forest: 40 years of change in the Adirondack Mountains. It is published in the December 2017 issue of the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

Photo of Whiteface in April 2016 courtesy John Warren.

Related Stories

Stories under the Almanack's Editorial Staff byline come from press releases and other notices.

Send news updates and story ideas to Alamanck Editor Melissa Hart at

14 Responses

  1. Balian the Cat says:

    I feel like the Chickadees are conspicuously absent from our feeder this year? Lots of Junco’s.

  2. Paul says:

    There is (are) a weather station(s) on Whiteface Mt. Why would you get temperatures for down in Lake Placid?

  3. Charlie S says:

    “average daily maximum temperatures for the summer breeding season have risen steadily over the last 40 years…”

    > There’s a school of people out there who deny the earth is warming.Our President is denying this as well as just about everyone under his command. Whom are we to believe?

    • Balian the Cat says:

      Try this method, Charlie. If you encounter someone who self-describes as a “very stable genius” believe those who think contrary to that person.

    • Boreas says:

      Trust your eyes Charlie. It has been happening for some time. A politician is the last person I would trust.

      • Charlie S says:

        I was being cynical Boreas so yes I’m ahead of you (and Balian the Cat) on this. What I find strange is these deniers …what will it take to bring them to reality? Truly I believe that the brain is very much capable of preserving a fart. I suppose some people would deny a UFO even if one zipped down from the sky and presented itself to them. Maybe it has to do with religion. Or a lack of common sense. Or a neurological disorder. One thing for sure is the pack mentality, especially when it misapplies reality….is a threat to us all.

        • Boreas says:


          Thankfully the majority of the world leaders seems to get it, as well as most of the citizens in the US. The only power our government has is what the citizens give it. That is why voting is so important – especially mid-terms.

          Even if trying to slow down warming on a global scale is futile, at least it gets governments and people around the world working for a common goal. Whether humans triggered the warming is immaterial. We certainly contribute to it. Worldwide peace certainly hasn’t worked, so let’s try something we can agree on.

    • Paul says:

      Does this administration deny that the earth is warming? I thought that their uniformed skepticism was in regard to the human-made component.

      Charlie, do you think that GMOs are unsafe? It’s funny I see a huge contingent of clueless people that deny the overwhelming science regarding the safety of GMOs. Sometimes deniability has to do with personal bias and not about science. Too bad.

      • Charlie S says:

        Denial is denial Paul and there you go trying to justify, once again, the malfeasance of the evil empire! You meant ‘uninformed’ skepticism I assume. I did not know that they (the Tories) isolated their denial down to the human-made component. Last I heard they denied the earth was warming, and if I misheard and they say it’s just a cyclical thing (which I have not heard them say) then should that mean it’s okay to keep moving along in the same backward manner we’ve been moving along just because it’s cyclic and not human-caused? Melting glaciers are melting glaciers Paul! What about our grandkid’s? What about the polar bears? What about those sickly fungal spores which are sure to attach themselves to more and more the warmer it gets?

  4. Charlie S says:

    “Charlie, do you think that GMOs are unsafe? It’s funny I see a huge contingent of clueless people that deny the overwhelming science regarding the safety of GMOs. Sometimes deniability has to do with personal bias and not about science. Too bad.”

    I don’t trust GMO’s Paul. And even though I go out of my way to avoid them (I buy organics and GMO-free foods only) surely I have GMO’s in my system thanks in large part to our government who favors corporations over the little guy which is just about everyone who don’t contribute to their campaigns. There must be close to thirty countries that do not allow GMO’s in their foods Paul. Us Americans! We’re not the smartest eggs which continues to be proven the world over. Sure…some of us smart eggs but generally – compliant masses.

    “Sometimes deniability has to do with personal bias and not about science. ”
    > I must hand it to you Paul…this is about the smartest thing I’ve heard you say in a long stretch!

    • Paul says:

      “I don’t trust GMO’s Paul”

      Thanks for the reply. That is what I expected. You have proven my point. You apparently only trust science when it fits with your personal agenda. The scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs is as strong if not stronger than it is on climate change. In fact the national academy of science has now had two studies that have reviewed all the science on GMOs from 1994-2014 (20 years) and the overwhelming consensus is that they are safe. Why do you believe these scientists on climate but not on other issues? Are scientists trying to trick us on GMOs and telling us the truth on climate? That would be quite a conspiracy involving thousands of scientists and thousands of peer reviewed studies.

  5. Charlie S says:

    “Why do you believe these scientists on climate but not on other issues?”

    Where do you get this from? Who said I believe ‘these’ scientist? Your conjuring up falsehoods Paul.

    • Paul says:

      Read again Charlie. Above you say you don’t trust GMOs. The overwhelming scientific consensus on GMOs is that they are safe. You don’t trust the science. You said it yourself. I am curious why do you trust them on Climate but not on GMOs? I do on both. Your “belief” here on the facts is pretty similar to many people. They trust the scientists only when it fits their personal agenda. That isn’t trust in science it is trust in a preconceived notion based not on fact but on something else. The same problem that many climate change deniers have.

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox