Thoreau's study of birds at Waldon Pond aids biologists in climate change research

Dec 13, 2010

Boston University biology professor Richard Primack, graduate student Elizabeth Ellwood, and recent graduate Michelle Talmadge completed an analysis of the changing arrival dates of migratory birds to Concord, Massachusetts that includes observations by Henry David Thoreau from the 1850's. This research builds on earlier work by Primack and his students showing plants in Concord respond rapidly to temperature and are now flowering 10 days earlier than in the time of Thoreau.

Thoreau's records and subsequent observations up to the present of bird arrival times around Walden Pond are being used to study the effects of global . In a soon to be published article in the journal Condor, Primack and Ellwood show that some , such as the Yellow-rumped Warbler and Chipping Sparrow, are arriving earlier in warmer years and later in cold years. This study is particularly significant as it represents the longest time span over which bird arrival times have been scientifically observed.

The study indicates that Concord birds are not responding to warming temperatures as fast as plants, and that they may miss the peak abundance of insect food in the spring, if insects are also responding as rapidly as plants. The concern here is that birds may not find enough insects to feed their hungry nestlings, and the baby birds will starve to death. "Insect are the missing link between plants and birds and this is the next area of focus in our lab," said Ellwood.

Explore further: EU, others: Catch plans for Bluefin tuna threaten recovery

More information: Ellwood, E., R. B. Primack, and M. Talmadge. 2010. Effects of climate change on spring bird arrival times in Thoreau's Concord from 1851 to 2007. Condor 112: 754-762.

Provided by Boston University Medical Center

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Eating like a bird helps forests grow

Apr 05, 2010

Lions, tigers and bears top the ecological pyramid -- the diagram of the food chain that every school child knows. They eat smaller animals, feeding on energy that flows up from the base where plants convert ...

Urging evolutionary biologists into the fray

Nov 19, 2010

A Harvard botanist is citing climate change lessons learned at Walden Pond and urging evolutionary biologists into the global warming fray, where their knowledge of species’ genetic relationships can ...

Recommended for you

Salish Sea seagull populations halved since 1980s

6 hours ago

The number of seagulls in the Strait of Georgia is down by 50 per cent from the 1980s and University of British Columbia researchers say the decline reflects changes in the availability of food.

Banksias differ on resilience to climate change

8 hours ago

Research into the germination requirements of four Banksia species (Proteaceae) endemic to the South West Australian Floristic Region (SWAFR) has found certain species may be more vulnerable to climate change ...

China bans ivory carving imports for one year

14 hours ago

Beijing has imposed a one-year ban on the import of ivory carvings, amid international criticism that rapidly-growing Chinese demand could push wild African elephants to extinction within a generation.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.