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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Forecasting songbird vulnerabilities to climate change

Project Leader:
Project Fellows:
Project Investigators:
Dr. Richard Feldman (Postdoctoral Fellow, UMass Amherst)
Dr. Abe Miller Rushing (NPS Acadia National Park and Schoodic Education and Research Center)
New Hampshire


This project focused on evaluating the spatial relationships of migratory bird movements and how they are mediated by environmental factors, providing resource managers a tool for assessing effects of potential climate change and wind energy development on bird migration. The research has direct relevance to the management of protected areas, and he will work with cooperators to develop and deliver outreach materials and activities as a part of the project. 

We analyzed the way the internal structure of abundance across breeding bird species ranges is reorganized over time. We tester how the internal dynamics - as measured by latitudinal shifts of populations - depends on the population's latitude and abundance, and the temperature dynamics of the site where the population is located. We found that the way abundance moves around a range is not random. We found that populations of high abundance and in the northern part of species ranges were the most dynamic. We found that populations were more dynamic when their local temperature was also dynamic but in ways opposite of what we expected. Specifically, when a particular temperature moved north, the abundance at that site moved south. Importantly, bird species ranges were internally dynamic regardless of whether they were expanding northward.

In collaboration with EMC and the Earthwatch Institute, we have created a website that integrates and visualizes Hawkwatch, eBird, "brown-down," and temperature data for Acadia National Park. For the period 1995-2013, we found that average fall temperature is steadily increasing, "brown-down" is happening earlier in the fall, and the date when half of all raptors have migrated past Acadia has stayed relatively consistent. To gauge learning outcomes from using the website, we created online surveys. We received more than 800 responses, though less than 200 of those took both the "before" and "after" survey. Among the results was that users' understanding of climate change and citizen science, and their willingness to participate in citizen science project, increased after visiting the website.

This project provides resource managers with tools for better assessing and managing protected areas for migratory birds throughout the Gulf of Maine. We have also started a new collaboration with Acadia National Park, Schoodic Institute, Earthwatch Institute, and EMC Corporation to develop an online tool that integrates climate, weather, plant phenology, and bird abundance data to visualize the effect of climate change on the phenology of bird migration. We are using hawk migration at Acadia National Park as a test case for the tool’s design and implementation. Richard Feldman is providing the ecological/ornithological background that complements the work of EMC’s data engineers, designers, and marketers. With the tool, individuals from different user groups (scientists, citizen-scientists, educators, policy makers) will be able to see the long-term changes in the relationship between climate and bird variables and be able to pull together the data to ask more specific questions about the effects of climate change.


Feldman, R.E., “The phenology of fall in the context of climate change.”University of Massachusetts Boston Department of Biology Seminar Series (Oct 26, 2018, Boston, MA).
"The influence of fruit availability on the temporal structure of fall bird migration in temperate and tropical stopover sites" at the International Ornithological Congress, Vancouver, BC, Aug 16 - 20, 2018
Roselli, M., Acadia National Park Science Symposium, Schoodic Educational and Research Center, Winter Harbor, ME. Preliminary results from summer/fall field work. October 7-8, 2015.
David Grunzel, the lead bird bander from the 2015 season, presented results from 2015 season in a talk called "Phenological synchrony during fall migration" at the North American Ornithological Congress, August 16-20 in Washington DC.
Feldman, R.E., 100th Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD. "Visualizing the effects of climate change on hawk migration phenology: Results from an experimental collaboration between the academic, public, private, and non-governmental sectors." August 9-14, 2015.
Feldman, R.E., Five-day workshop sponsored by the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park (Nov 17-24, 2014) that served as an initial planning session for the collaborative project between Schoodic, Acadia, Earthwatch, and EMC Corporation.
Feldman, R.E., Joint meeting of American Ornithologists’ Union, Cooper Ornithological Society, and Society of Canadian Ornithologists, Estes Park, CO. How climate change has affected the internal structure of bird species ranges in the US and Canada. 2014.
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