Monday, 18 August 2008

canaries in a mine shaft

A number of UK bird species are laying eggs significantly earlier than they were 40 years ago, a report reveals.

A conservation coalition's report says some finches, robins and tits are all laying earlier and puts this down to warming caused by climate change.

Overall, numbers of farmland birds remain about half of what they were in the 1970s, while wintering populations of water birds have risen considerably.

The RSPB said birds were having to respond to climate change to survive. "As often before, birds are acting like the canaries in a mine shaft and giving us early warning of dangerous change." The report shows that on average, chaffinches are laying nine days earlier than in the 1960s, and robins six days earlier.

In some species, the shift has been shown to be damaging, as it means key foods are no longer available when the youngsters need them.

But in other situations - as documented recently with English great tits - the wildlife appears to cope.

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