Two-thirds of U.S. birds face extinction due to climate change: Report

NEW YORK, Oct. 10 (Reuters) - Two-thirds of bird species in North America, already disappearing at an alarming rate, face extinction unless immediate action is taken to slow the rate of climate change, the National Audubon Society said on Thursday.

"We are in the midst of a bird emergency," Audubon's Chief Executive David Yarnold said at a news briefing. "This is as much about the future that we face and our children face as the birds face."

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North American birds on Watch List, at risk of extinction
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North American birds on Watch List, at risk of extinction

Altamira Yellowthroat

(Photo by William Goldsmith via Getty Images)

Black Oystercatcher

(Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

American Woodcock

(Photo credit KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Ancient Murrelet

(Photo by Glenn Bartley via Getty Images)

Audubons Oriole 

(Photo by Tim Zurowski via Getty Images)

Audubon's Shearwater

(Photo via Getty Images)

Baird's sparrow

(Photo by Keith Levit Photography via Getty Images)

Band-tailed Pigeon

(Photo via Getty Images)

Bendire's thrasher

(Photo by Jim Zipp via Getty Images)

Bicknell's Thrush

(Photo by Garth McElroy via Getty Images)

Black hawk-eagle

(Photo by Eduardo Rivero via Getty Images)

Black-and-white hawk-eagle

(Photo via Getty Images)

Black-banded woodcreeper

(Photo by Glenn Bartley via Getty Images)

Black-billed cuckoo

(Photo by Paul Reeves Photography via Getty Images)

Black-capped petrel

(Photo via Getty Images)

Black-capped siskin

(Photo via Getty Images)

Black-capped vireo

(Photo by Anthony Mercieca via Getty Images)

Black-cheeked woodpecker

(Photo By DEA / C. DANI I. JESKE/De Agostini/Getty Images)

Black-chinned sparrow 

(Photo by Jim Zipp via Getty Images)

Black-cowled oriole

(Photo via Getty Images)

Black-crested coquette 

(Photo by Glenn Bartley via Getty Images)

Black footed albatross

(Photo by Paul & Paveena Mckenzie via Getty Images)

Blue footed booby

(Photo by Rebecca Yale via Getty Images)

Bobolink

(Photo by Linda Freshwaters Arndt via Getty Images)

Brandt's cormorant

(Photo by Werner Bollmann via Getty Images)

Bristle-thighed curlew

(Photo by Paul & Paveena Mckenzie via Getty Images)

Brown-capped vireo 

(Photo by Glenn Bartley via Getty Images)

Brown-hooded parrot

(Photo via Getty Images)

Buff-breasted sandpiper

(Photo via Getty Images)

Buller's shearwater

(Photo via Getty Images)

California condor

(Photo by Alexandra Rudge via Getty Images)

California Thrasher

(Photo by Rob Pavey via Getty Images)

Canada warbler 

(Johann Schumacher via Getty Images)

Cape May warbler

(Photo by Garth McElroy via Getty Images)

Cassin's finch

(Photo via Getty Images)

Cerulean warbler

(Photo by Steve Maslowski via Getty Images)

Chestnut-capped brush-finch

(Photo by Glenn Bartley via Getty Images)

Chestnut-collared longspur

(Photo by Jared Hobbs via Getty Images)

Male chestnut woodpecker

(Photo by Andrew M. Snyder via Getty Images)

Common eider

(Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Crested guan

(Photo by Krysia Campos via Getty Images)

Crimson-collared tanager

(Photo via Getty Images)

Eastern whip-poor-will

(Photo by Glenn Bartley via Getty Images)

Emperor goose

(Photo via Getty Images)

Evening grosbeak

(Photo via Getty Images)

Fan-tailed warbler

(Photo via Getty Images)

Flame-colored tanager

(Photo via Getty Images)

Flesh footed shearwater

(Photo via Getty Images)

Gilded flicker

(Photo via Getty Images)

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If the emission of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming isn't slowed, 389 out of 604 species in North America will face extinction, a report by the conservation group said.

As the climate warms, birds would be forced to relocate to find a more favorable habitat, and they may not survive this journey, the report said.

But if the expected rise in temperatures of 3 degrees Celsius (37.4°F) by 2080 is slowed to 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7°F), nearly 40% of those species would no longer be considered vulnerable, researchers said.

Most threatened are species that live in the cold Arctic zone and those living in coastal areas.

"More than 50% of coastal birds will have to adjust their ranges," said Audubon senior scientist Brooke Bateman.

Birds imperiled by the Earth's predicted temperature rise include such widely recognized and beloved species as the piping plover, Baltimore oriole and golden eagle, Audubon said.

While some species are predicted to die due to rising temperatures, other birds that thrive in warmer, southern climates will relocate to northern locales, a move already underway, Bateman said.

Her father now regularly sees Carolina wrens, the state bird of South Carolina, near his home on New York's Long Island, she said.

American robins, once recognized in northern U.S. states as a harbinger of spring when they return from their southern migration to avoid winter's chill, instead are staying put during increasingly warm North American winters, she said.

Audubon's report sounds the alarm just weeks after a similar one about threats to the avian population drew widespread attention.

Bird populations in the United States and Canada have dropped 29% since 1970, with a net loss of about 2.9 billion birds, scientists said last month. Climate change, however, was not the major driver of the population plunge, said Ken Rosenberg, an applied conservation scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Bird Conservancy.

Instead, he said, people were to blame, particularly for widespread habitat loss and degradation, the broad use of agricultural chemicals that eradicate insects vital to the diet of many birds, and also for outdoor hunting by pet cats. (Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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