Climate Change Reducing Migratory Bird Populations

Animal migrations combine staggering endurance and exquisite timing.

Consider the odyssey of a bird known as the red knot. Each spring, flocks of the intrepid shorebirds fly up to 9,300 miles from the tropics to the Arctic. As the snow melts, they mate and produce a new generation of chicks. The chicks gorge themselves on insects, and then all the red knots head back south.

“They are there less than two months,” said Jan A. van Gils, an ecologist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. “It’s a very tight schedule.”

It is also a vulnerable one. The precipitous decline of the red knots that winter in West Africa may provide a small but telling parable of the perils ofclimate change.

Tom Benson