A new study by Columbia University researchers has found that American robins have adjusted their migration patterns to keep pace with the earlier spring arrivals caused by climate change.
Using small backpacks to track the patterns of individual robins, the researchers found that robins are migrating five days earlier every decade. Currently, robins are migrating 12 days earlier than they did in 1994.
Environmental cues helped the robins make the decision to begin their migration. The tracked robins began heading north earlier during warm and dry winters.
“The one factor that seemed the most consistent was snow conditions and when things melt. That’s very new,” said Ruth Oliver, lead author of the study told Science Daily. “We’ve generally felt like birds must be responding to when food is available – when snow melts and there are insects to get at – but we’ve never had data like this before.”
The study is part of a NASA-funded project called the Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment, which seeks to understand the vulnerability and resilience of ecosystems in the wake of climate change.