Threats to Birds of Prey

Climate Change

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How will birds of prey cope with climate change?

The Gyrfalcon and its main prey, the ptarmigan, are well-suited to life in the harsh conditions of the Arctic. Like the polar bear, however, the Gyrfalcon and other birds of prey are likely to experience profound life-cycle changes as the climate warms. The Peregrine Fund has begun exploring how climate change might affect birds of prey like the Gyrfalcon and what steps can be taken to confront its effects.

An adult Gyrfalcon perches on a rock in Alaska.

Roy Toft, Toft Photo Safaris

In early 2011, we organized an international conference, Gyrfalcons and Ptarmigan in a Changing World, in Boise, Idaho. More than 120 scientists, scholars, wildlife managers, and other conservationists from around the world attended to share findings, learn from one another, and determine what knowledge gaps remain. The presentations have been published in book form and also made available online.

Ian Newton, a renowned ornithologist who serves on our board of directors, summed up the results of the conference this way:

Sea ice is shrinking, spring is earlier, vegetation is clearly responding, tree lines are rising, willow patches are expanding but not everywhere. Key species are going to lose habitat.”

Newton urged researchers to go beyond monitoring the species to improving a broader understanding of a highly complex problem.

Future plans include:

  • Development of an online database that will be accessible to anyone working on topics related to birds of prey and climate change.
  • Formation of a communications group so that the research community can stay in touch and contribute to ways of stemming and mitigating the effects of climate change on wildlife in the Arctic.
  • Coordinated circumpolar research on Gyrfalcons, ptarmigan and other prey.
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Climate Change
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Energy Supply
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Habitat Loss
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Human Conflict
Invasive Species
Knowledge Gap
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Lead Poisoning