Heat waves, wildfires and intense downpours occurring more frequently as climate changes will limit the populations of ranges of birds including the Baltimore oriole, a new Audubon Society report says.

Birds at risk of disappearing in large numbers from Maryland include the whip-poor-will, American woodcock, red-headed woodpecker and scarlet tanager. They are expected to lose significant portions of their habitat, and it’s unclear if many birds will be able to find new homes, said David Curson, interim executive director of Audubon Maryland-DC.


“Some of them might lose an awful lot of their range and not gain new range,” he said. “Our ability to model exactly where they’ll go is really difficult.”

Curson said the predictions should prompt bird lovers to become stronger advocates for a transition to cleaner energy and a “rapid” reduction in carbon emissions.

There is hope that the losses of birds can be limited, he said, even though recent research shows there are already 3 billion fewer birds in North America than there were in 1970.

“We’re really urging people to become climate champions and take action,” he said.

Here’s what Audubon is predicting for a number of key bird species that spend their summers in Maryland:

Scarlet tanager, American woodcock, whip-poor-will, red-headed woodpecker

These forest bird species could lose half or more of their habitats, though they could gain habitat on the northern sides of their current ranges.

For example, the scarlet tanager — known for its contrasting bright red body and black wings — could lose a third of its habitat if global temperatures warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius and twice that at 3 degrees of warming, Audubon’s modeling found. Those losses would be felt across the Midwest, and, in the higher warming scenario, in Western and Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore, as well.

Saltmarsh sparrow, piping plover, royal tern

Many coastal birds already are losing habitat as sea level rise inundates marshes, and that is expected to accelerate as temperatures warm and waters rise.

The saltmarsh sparrow, for example, could gain significant range across eastern Canada but is expected to all but disappear from marshes of the lower Eastern Shore in Maryland. Royal terns are expected to suffer their largest losses of habitat in the lower Chesapeake Bay region, and piping plovers also could vanish.

Baltimore oriole

Maryland’s state bird is listed as one of the most at-risk species in Audubon’s report, but the models suggest it actually could gain habitat here as a result of climate change.

Its habitat losses are expected to be largest in the Plains states. The oriole is expected to maintain its range across Central and Western Maryland, and also could find parts of Southern Maryland and the upper Eastern Shore more suitable.