A Changing Climate: A Changing Florida Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink

Photo by Mac Stone.

In 2014, the National Audubon Society released a landmark climate report detailing the risks faced by our favorite bird species as climate change effects are felt across the country and across the world. In 2019, the report was completely revised to included more observations, more data, and more threats.

Audubon’s new science shows that nearly two-thirds (389 out of 604) of North American bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change. The good news is that our science also shows that if we take action now we can help improve the chances for 76% of species at risk.

Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of community-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change. Our work defines the climate conditions birds need to survive, then maps where those conditions will be found in the future as the Earth’s climate responds to increased greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

It’s the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, and it’s the closest thing we have to a field guide to the future of North American birds.


Florida is home to more than 500 bird species, from the giant Wood Stork to the diminutive Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

But what will happen to these species in the 21st century if climate change is not effectively addressed?

Good question. They will:

Click on the above species to learn more, or scroll below to see them all.

Photo: Britt Brown/FWC.

To showcase how bird populations will change in the 21st century, we have identified five species and will explore how each is likely to respond to the conditions predicted within the Survival By Degrees report for Florida.

Roseate Spoonbills: Predicted to Move

Photo: Myrna Erier Bradshaw/Audubon Photography Awards.

On July 24, 2019, Sheila Pies steadied her camera on a particularly pink Roseate Spoonbill. After taking a few general photographs, she zeroed in on the spoonbill's ankles to reveal fancy silver bracelets: bird bands. To learn more about this enigmatic species, Audubon Florida has banded over 3,000 individuals and has been tracking their movements when the bands are re-sighted.

Can you spot the bands on M6's legs? Photo: Sheila Pies.

Sheila's bird - M6 - was first banded at Tampa's Alafia Bank in 2008. Relatively loyal to Sarasota, M6 had been spotted three times near the Fruitville library (in 2014 and twice in 2016), once off Coburn Street in 2015, then again at the Celery Fields in 2017. M6 behaves like many spoonbills do: finding successful breeding and feeding grounds, and staying put.

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Unfortunately, many Roseate Spoonbills no longer have this luxury. Already shifting their range northward in response to habitat destruction and changing water conditions, Audubon modeling predicts they will shift even farther to find the right places to feed and raise their young.

The species is currently very widespread and numerous in the Neotropics, extending its range south to Argentina. Audubon’s climate model predicts an unstable future for this species in North America, with significant loss of suitable climate space in both summer and winter, though there is potential for new areas opening up to the north. Populations are declining in some core areas of this species’ summer range, and it remains to be seen how a shifting climate will affect this charismatic bird.*


Roseate Spoonbill Predicted Range with No Warming: Summer.
Roseate Spoonbill Predicted Range with 1.5 Degrees C Warming: Summer.
Roseate Spoonbill Predicted Range with 3 Degrees C of Warming: Summer.
Range Maps: Stamen Design

At the turn of the 20th century, the unique pink plumage of the Roseate Spoonbills nearly vanished from Florida’s landscape. Decimated by hunters, the wading species rebounded only after protections kept their colonies safe. Now, Audubon Florida science showcases how far the spoonbill populations have come, and how far they still need to go.

The decline and resurgence of Roseate Spoonbills parallels the conservation movement in Florida. These bright pink birds with long legs and an unusually-shaped bill have long mesmerized those who encounter them, and their beautiful plumes were especially sought-after during a time when women’s fashion included hats adorned with feathers and even entire birds. Back then, an ounce of feathers was allegedly worth more than an ounce of gold; a trend that continued for decades until the birds were decimated and their feathers fell out of fashion. Today, Audubon Florida continues to be a premier scientific resource when it comes to Roseate Spoonbills.

What is Audubon doing for the spoonbill?

Audubon Florida continues to band Roseate Spoonbill chicks to monitor their changing ranges and protect areas they use as breeding and feeding grounds.

Additionally, we work with Everglades stakeholders, including citizen groups, government agencies, and elected officials, to improve water flow through the River of Grass and increase conditions the spoonbills need to thrive.

Photo: Matthew Hansen/Audubon Photography Awards.

Our Success

The 2019, Florida Legislature appropriated landmark funding to water quality and wetlands restoration projects, including more than $360 million for Everglades restoration. The continued funding will support the revitalization of the habitat Roseate Spoonbills sorely need.

What can I do?

Stay up to date with the 2020 Legislative Session and call your elected officials to support continued Everglades restoration initiatives. Sign up for our Audubon Advocate to receive updates right in your inbox.

When you see a banded spoonbill, record as much information as possible and submit your observations here.

Photo: John Fox/Audubon Photography Awards.

Learn why the Roseate Spoonbill is the pink canary in a coal mine.

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Black Skimmer: Predicted to Decline

Photo: Tara Tanaka/Audubon Photography Awards.

In the summer of 2019, banded Black Skimmers A16 and A44 re-found each other on an urban Pinellas County beach for the third summer in a row, ready to begin the breeding season.

Audubon coastal biologists protect and steward state-Threatened Black Skimmer colonies nesting on Florida beaches each year. Until recently, little information was known about the age, birthplace, and winter whereabouts of the nesting skimmers at these sites. In 2015, Audubon Florida - in partnership with Dr. Beth Forys of Eckerd College - began to band skimmer chicks in an ongoing effort to unravel the mysteries of their annual movements. In 2017, Audubon staff began banding skimmer chicks on Marco Island. With all the sighting records of banded birds since 2015, we know a lot more about the birds’ stories, especially that of bird A16 and A44.

After two years of trying unsuccessfully, this pair finally fledged chicks! But future breeding success could be dampened by a "perfect" storm: continued coastal development and rising sea levels.

Species with strictly coastal habitat needs like the Black Skimmer are risk-takers. Coastal storms can overwash nests and flightless chicks and erode large chunks of habitat with significant effects on a region’s population. The direct and indirect effects of human activity on Florida's beach-nesting birds have been largely negative. Audubon's climate model introduces additional challenges for this striking and already beleaguered denizen of barrier-island beaches and back bays. Climatically suitable areas are forecast to decline by nearly two-thirds in winter.* Add to that the specter of rising sea levels, and the Black Skimmer’s future looks challenging, to say the least.


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Black Skimmer Predicted Range with No Warming: Winter.
Black Skimmer Predicted Range with 1.5 Degrees C of Warming: Winter.
Predicted Black Skimmer Range with 3 Degrees C of Warming: Winter.
Range Maps: Stamen Design

Black Skimmers look like masked bandits with short legs, black and white plumage, and a black and orange bill. The lower half of their bill is longer than the upper, enabling them to “skim” across the water with their mouth partly open and bill dragging across the surface in search of a fish. Audubon Florida continues to work with partners to ensure a bright future for this unique species.

Black Skimmers are affected by more than just climate change. Oil spills continue to be a threat, as crude oil can coat feathers and fill the food chain with chemical compounds harmful to both adult skimmers and their chicks.

What is Audubon doing for the skimmer?

Audubon partners with agencies, nonprofit organizations, and volunteers across the state to monitor and patrol the most vulnerable beach-nesting colonies. Beach stewards rope off nesting sites, educate visitors on the importance and wonder of the nesting season, and alert wildlife officers to nest disturbances.

In Pinellas and Collier Counties, Audubon Florida has embarked on an ambitious banding program to better understand population dynamics, habitat use during different parts of the year, and cross-state/cross-Gulf movements. By promoting the re-sighting of banded birds, we learn more about skimmers across the country and across the world.

Photo: Peter Cavanagh/Audubon Photography Awards.

Our Success

The sand-strewn beach along Little Talbot Island is one of the few places remaining on Florida’s Atlantic coast with no buildings and few roads in sight. Located just south of Amelia Island where Nassau County and Duval County meet, the emergent sands within Nassau Sound have long provided the perfect topography for beach-nesting birds, with direct access to fish and no trees to harbor predators. This summer, “Big Bird Island” (now connected to Little Talbot) provided one of the most successful nesting seasons in recent memory.

Unfortunately, nesting success here has been stymied in recent years because the same beaches that attract the birds also attract people. Despite its remoteness and previous attempts to provide a buffer, the northern end of the Little Talbot Island has been a favorite recreational spot for thousands of beachgoers and boaters each year, especially when waters are warm and beach-nesting birds are trying to raise their young.

New Critical Wildlife Area signage erected on Big Bird Island clearly conveys the message of "No Landing" to boaters and kayakers approaching from waterside. Thanks to the dedication of the Timucuan Shorebird Partnership, which includes staff and volunteers from Audubon Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Park Service, and the City of Jacksonville, beach-bird nesting failure at Little Talbot Island may be a thing of the past.

Photo: Brian Kushner

“The nesting success on Little Talbot Island this year was the result of many years of effort,” explains Chris Farrell, Audubon’s Northeast Florida Policy Associate. Five species of beach-nesting birds successfully raised chicks on Little Talbot Island: American Oystercatchers, Least Terns, Gull-billed Terns, Wilson’s Plovers, and Black Skimmers.

Decades ago, thousands of birds used the emergent islands in Nassau Sound, but shifting sands relocated and reduced their nesting habitat. With fewer areas capable of supporting imperiled beach-nesting birds, protection of the remaining nest sites became paramount. Recognizing the need for additional management tools, Audubon collaborated with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to both renew and enlarge the Critical Wildlife Area designation for beach-nesting bird habitat in Nassau Sound.

Photo: Chris Farrell

The FWC's Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) program is one way the state provides extra protection for concentrations of wildlife where there is the greatest exposure to human activity. CWAs are discrete sites, such as mangrove islands or sandbars, where species gather daily or seasonally for essential activities, such as breeding, feeding, or resting.

In 2015, Audubon started to work closely with FWC and other stakeholders to reestablish this protection for Little Talbot Island. Audubon’s Chris Farrell, FWC staff, and long-time advocate Pat Leary presented information on the importance of the sound for nesting birds during FWC's local stakeholder meetings.

On November 16, 2016, they got good news: the old "Bird Islands" CWA was redesignated as the "Nassau Sound Islands" CWA in the vote that created 13 new CWAs in the state and improved five existing ones. The most critical aspect of the redesignation was the inclusion of the northern tip of Little Talbot Island – a spit of sand once known as "Big Bird Island" but had since shifted and attached to the end of Little Talbot Island.

The "Big Bird" area at the northern end of Little Talbot is ideal habitat for beach-nesting birds and has been the site of nesting attempts by Least Terns and American Oystercatchers. Unfortunately, these attempts yielded few fledged chicks, if any. Park staff marked off the nesting habitat each year, but they could never post an area large enough to prevent disturbance to the birds for fear of losing signs to the dynamic tides of the region.

Fortunately, the new CWA designation brought additional resources and focus to this nesting site. The most significant improvement was the addition of seven large "No Landing" signs, installed around the breeding area to let boaters know they could not land and disembark near the nesting birds.

Additionally, Audubon Florida and FWC have hired seasonal staff to steward this remote nesting site, where it can be difficult to recruit help from volunteers. FWC also produced informational postcards explaining the closure of the nesting area with details on its location and a map. Park rangers hand out cards at the station, as do stewards when speaking with visitors on-site.

Continued efforts, including meeting with local outfitters, installing signs at boat ramps, and outreach programs are helping to improve compliance with the CWA closure. Stewards like Lindsay Partymiller have been critical in this regard, intercepting more than 150 boat landings and speaking with over 500 people at the nesting site this year alone.

The cumulative result of these partnership efforts has been a significant increase in nesting success by several species. Least Terns, which managed to raise a few chicks to fledgling age at the site last year, built more than 100 nests in 2019 with dozens of fledgling chicks. 2019’s big surprise? The return of sizable numbers of nesting Black Skimmers and Gull-billed Terns. Skimmers built a whopping thirty nests, and at least 25 chicks survived. Gull-billed Terns had more than twenty nests and many successful offspring. Four pairs of American Oystercatchers also produced young, with Wilson’s Plovers rounding out the list of successful nesters at this site, bringing the total number of species to five. Final estimates of fledgling success will be tallied after a thorough review of all survey data.

Farrell notes, “The positive response from multiple species is a testament to how improved management can benefit our beach-nesting birds. Hard work from our partners at Little Talbot Island State Park, FWC, and Audubon's bird stewards resulted in a successful nesting season at the Nassau Sound Islands CWA and should inspire others to replicate their success.”

For more than a century Audubon has encouraged people to take care of the places that make Florida special. Using science to guide our priorities and birdlife to measure ecosystem health, Audubon promotes stewardship and appreciation of public land and water so people experience and cherish Florida’s natural beauty and wildlife.

Photo: Jean Hall.

What can I do?

You can help beach-nesting birds raise their next generation of chicks to adulthood by following some simple guidelines when you visit the beach:

Respect posted areas, even if you don’t see any birds inside; if birds dive-bomb you, carefully move away as there may be a nest nearby; ensure no trash or food remnants are left behind; and always keep dogs on a leash, on board your boat, or at home.

Utilize natural solutions to shoreline erosion, including living shorelines and oyster reefs. Conservation of wetlands and marshy areas is critical not only to Black Skimmers, but for coastal resilience as well.

Become a beach steward and protect vulnerable nesting colonies from disturbance each summer.

When you see Black Skimmers with leg bands, please report them to the Florida Banded Birds Resightings website. Each re-sighted band provides critical information on how we can better conserve and protect Black Skimmers in the face of ongoing climate change.

Photo: Anuradha Shankar, Audubon Photography Awards.

Meet the original beach-goers, shorebirds like the Black Skimmer!

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American Redstart: Predicted to Increase

Photo: Tom Warren/Audubon Photography Awards.

It's late morning at Kissimmee Prairie State Park. Audubon Florida Communications Director Erika takes a turn around the dense nature trail, binoculars at the ready. Suddenly, a mixed, migrating flock of warblers moves through the treetops. Amidst the passerines, Erika counts not one, not two, but three American Redstarts. As our climate continues to change, these birds that were only found in Florida in fall and spring could become more common in winter, as well.

In the coming years and decades, recording American Redstarts will become much more important as we seek to understand the ways their population is fluctuating along with climate change. For community scientists, reporting both their presence and their density will give researchers valuable information on how to restore and preserve their habitat.

Predicted American Redstart Range with No Warming: Winter.
Predicted American Redstart Range with 1.5 Degree C of Warming: Winter.
Predicted American Redstart Range with 3 Degrees C of Warming: Winter.
Range Maps: Stamen Design

In summer, much of the continent’s moist, broad-leafed forest is home to the American Redstart. It searches for insects by fluttering at the tips of branches, and even by fly-catching, when it flashes the brilliantly-colored patches in its wings and tail. American Redstarts are migratory, so they may be well positioned to take advantage of newly suitable areas. In particular, large swaths of Alaska, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories could become suitable for breeding—but only if the plant and insect communities can also follow the shift in climate, and redstarts follow these shifts.*


Photo: Donald Phillips/Audubon Photography Awards.

As insects become more abundant in Florida's warmer, future winters, the redstart's winter range will expand to include Central Florida as well as South Florida. Like other over-wintering warblers, these birds depend on plentiful insects to survive until they return north for the breeding season. The shorter the distance these birds have to migrate each year, the more likely they are to breed again the following spring. As their wintering habitat moves to include more of Florida, American Redstarts will not only be seen more often here, but across the southern U.S., as well.

What is Audubon doing for the redstart?

Plants for Birds Program

Enthusiasm for using native plants in Florida landscapes is spreading among Audubon’s 45 local chapters in Florida! Twenty of Florida’s Audubon chapters serve as local native plant resources and are encouraging their communities and neighbors to use native landscaping. Native plants are better for birds and people, save water, control flooding, use fewer chemicals, reduce yard maintenance, and create native Florida beauty in landscapes. Check out these examples of just a few chapters working to expand bird-friendly native landscapes in their communities:

Pelican Island Audubon is advocating for native plants to help save the Indian River Lagoon. More than 400 attendees participated in a recent two-day native landscaping conference, and local officials have asked for their help in developing a local native plant program. Native plants require less water and fertilizer, making them friendlier to nearby rivers, lakes, and the Indian River Lagoon.

South Florida Audubon is restoring three existing bird sanctuary butterfly gardens with more bird-friendly plants after many were destroyed by Hurricane Irma. Audubon’s interactive database at Audubon.org/PlantsForBirds is serving as a guide to select native plants for these gardens. The Garden Club of the Quail Ridge Country Club, local Florida Master Gardeners, and the National Wildlife Habitat Steward volunteers are partnering with South Florida Audubon on this project, which includes installing new plants and providing community education.

Drumming up incredible local interest in native plants, Four Rivers Audubon in North Central Florida featured a native plant giveaway as part of their 9th Annual Alligator Lake Spring Festival in April. Hundreds gather each year for this community event celebrating the area’s springs and nature. More than 200 carefully selected native plants were given away to attendees with installation, care, and benefit details.

Bay County Audubon hosted "Birds, Bugs and Berries," a well-attended symposium on native plants. Expert birders, native plant enthusiasts, and gardening specialists highlighted the importance of native plants for both birds and the bugs they need. Insects provide an important source of protein for birds, especially young song birds. Bird populations have dramatically declined due to habitat loss and climate change, and native landscapes empower homeowners and business to help both the environment and the birds.

American Redstarts can use these native plant gardens for foraging opportunities as they migrate through the Sunshine State. As more redstarts begin to remain in Florida year-round, they can also use native plant gardens as critical overwintering habitat.

Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon.

What can I do?

Plant native plants across your landscape, and ask your neighbors and community to do the same. Once established, native plants do not need watering, pesticides, or fertilizers, making them better for water quality, and your wallet.

Participate in community science projects that collect critical information on the movements and populations of American Redstarts. In addition to the Christmas Bird Count, be sure to log in to eBird.org to record sightings all year round.

Photo: Eric Nie/Audubon Photography Awards.

American Redstarts may be able to take advantage of changing climate conditions in Florida, but they remain sensitive to habitat destruction, pesticide use, and alterations of their wintering and breeding grounds outside of Florida. Audubon continues to work with partners across the state, country, and the world to ensure the resilience of this especially eye-catching species.

Wood Thrush: Predicted to Disappear

Photo: Will Stuart.

It's springtime in Tallahassee, the weather starting to warm again after a chilly winter season. Audubon Florida Director of Bird Conservation, Dr. Marianne Korosy, is birding in her backyard.

She spots the usual suspects easily: bright red Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees busily feeding, a Red-shouldered Hawk standing sentry atop a snag. But from the shadows of the forest she hears one of the most haunting bird calls in North America: the flute-like song of the Wood Thrush.

If the climate continues to warm, Florida may lose this hauntingly beautiful song altogether.

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In the late 20th century, the Wood Thrush was one of the most potent symbols of Eastern forests under siege. Sharp population declines were blamed on cowbird parasitism, nest predation, and habitat fragmentation. A new challenge is climate change. Audubon's climate model projects a substantial loss of current summer range, with a critical shift in the offing, as new range could become available across much of what is today the boreal forest.*


Predicted Wood Thrush Range with No Warming: Summer.
Predicted Wood Thrush Range with 1.5 Degrees C: Summer.
Predicted Wood Thrush Range with 3 Degrees C Warming: Summer.
Range Maps: Stamen Design

While the Wood Thrush could expand its range northward, this iconic species would disappear almost completely from Florida. Unfortunately, other factors combine to make this species increasingly vulnerable across the remainder of its range.

Cowbirds lay many eggs in their nests, so the thrushes often raise mainly cowbirds, with few young of their own. As forests are cut into smaller fragments, it apparently becomes easier for cowbirds to penetrate these small woodlots and find more of the thrush nests. The Wood Thrush is likely also losing wintering habitat in the tropics.

What is Audubon doing for the Wood Thrush?

Wood Thrushes need wet, hardwood forests to survive, and are known for living near unique, sandbottom streams in North Florida.

Sensitive to disturbance, Wood Thrushes rely on intact stretches of forest, far from the edges that connect the trees with pastureland, row crops, and developed property.

Audubon Florida continues to fight for Florida Forever funding that can be leveraged to purchase and protect large tracts of forest habitat, like the Apalachicola River corridor, stretching from Florida's state line to the Gulf of Mexico. We intervened in the legal fight with neighboring Georgia over public and agricultural water withdrawals, working towards keeping the Apalachicola River's water flowing into its vast floodplains while conserving habitat for Wood Thrushes and other bird species that depend on broad landscapes of intact forests.

Audubon staff worked closely with Apalachee Audubon Chapter to research tracts along the Apalachicola River that could be purchased together into one globally Important Bird Area through the Florida Forever Program.

Photo: Kathy Johnston/Audubon Photography Awards.

Our Success

Lake Talquin State Forest and Apalachicola National Forest protect many of the remaining sandbottom streams in large, unbroken tracts of forest.

In North Florida, Audubon has partnered with others to advocate for restoring the Ocklawaha River and protecting springs from pollution and overuse of groundwater. More recently, we were the lead on a friend of the court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Georgia’s over consumption of water to protect the Apalachicola River ecosystem.

Photo: Megumi Aita/Audubon Photography Awards.

What can I do?

Conserving large swaths of forest in Florida will ensure that the Wood Thrush's flute-like melodies will continue to be heard in North Florida's forested landscapes long into the future. Floridians should encourage Florida Forever purchases that create wildlife corridors so these birds do not have to fly over hostile habitat like parking lots and highways.

Advocate for the Florida Forever acquisitions along the Apalachicola River by contacting your local elected official. Follow Audubon Florida's policy work to stay up to date on opportunities to support Florida Forever.

Across the Atlantic Flyway, Audubon has engaged landowners and foresters responsible for managing nearly 4.5 million acres. In partnership with the Belize Audubon Society, Audubon is also working to protect forested winter habitat for the Wood Thrush and other neotropical migrants. Audubon will expand both the reach and scope of this pragmatic approach to conservation, including promoting policies that offer economic incentives for forest preservation in both Latin America and the United States.*


Brown Pelican: Predicted to Adapt

Photo: Brad Lewis/Audubon Photography Awards.

April 20, 2019 marked the ninth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that endangered the economies of coastal communities, saturated marshes and wetlands with sludge, and smothered thousands of birds in oil. Despite millions of gallons of oil flooding into the Gulf of Mexico, two surviving pelicans from the disaster recently gave Audubon biologists new hope for the fate of rescued and treated bird victims.

In 2010, two oiled Brown Pelicans were rescued, cleaned, rehabilitated, and banded in Louisiana. The two survivors were then safely released at Fort De Soto Park in St. Petersburg, Florida. The region is home to dozens of Audubon-protected island sanctuaries that provide refuge to more than 50,000 coastal birds including thousands of Brown Pelicans.

Audubon biologists have spotted the banded pelican survivors in recent years at the Richard T. Paul Alafia Banks Sanctuary Critical Wildlife Area, which is leased from and managed in collaboration with The Mosaic Company. Biologists believe both birds are now using the sanctuary to breed - giving reason for hope for the once endangered species. These two survivors serve as a poignant reminder of just how important Audubon Florida’s work is to the region, state, and entire Gulf of Mexico.

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An ungainly looking bird, with its oversized bill and stocky body, the Brown Pelican is an elegant flier. When traveling, it may glide low above the surf; when hunting, it will perform spectacular dives, from as high as 60 feet, plunging into the water to scoop up a fish in its bill pouch. A highly sociable bird, the pelican is often seen roosting or flying in large groups. It lives year-round in estuaries and coastal marine habitats along the shores of the southern half of the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Young pelicans frequently venture north during warm months only to encounter potentially lethal winter storms and irregular food supplies later in the season. The pelican has rebounded from seriously reduced numbers, thanks to the banning of DDT and rigorous recovery efforts.*


Predicted Brown Pelican Range with No Warming: Summer.
Predicted Brown Pelican Range with 1 Degree C of Warming: Summer.
Predicted Brown Pelican Range with 3 Degrees C of Warming: Summer.
Range Maps: Stamen Design

An icon of coastal waters, this species is projected to lose much of its current winter range by 2080, according to Audubon’s climate model. Potentially significant expansion of range may be possible—but much of this is well away from the coastal areas required for this species. One big uncertainty facing the bird in the coming decades is how climate change will affect its prey fish, even along its required coastal habitats.*

And yet, Brown Pelicans have proven themselves highly adaptable, regularly feeding and resting in areas commonly used by people, like fishing piers, marinas, and beaches. As sea level rise affects traditional nesting colonies, Audubon works to build living shorelines to help keep them safe.


What is Audubon doing for the pelican?

Audubon staff and chapters are training volunteers to work on piers to rescue pelicans that have been tangled with fishing line or swallowed bones. Audubon has also partnered in the production of an informational brochure called What to Do if You Hook a Pelican. Additionally, we have installed fishing line recycling tubes on fishing piers and in harbors to encourage proper disposal and reduce the amount of line that ends up in our waterways.

Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries staff patrol 75 colony islands along the Southwest Florida coastline to remove entangled birds as well as fishing tackle. Each fall, staff organize coastal cleanups to educate citizens on how much fishing line enters our waterways as well as encouraging methods of safely and effectively removing it.

Critically, Audubon is pioneering new living shoreline initiatives to reduce erosion and increase resiliency in areas the pelicans need to both feed and nest. Expanded projects in the Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary and four other regionally important rookery islands both add to these efforts and inspire other landowners to undertake similar efforts.

Photo: Lorraine Minns/Audubon Photography Awards.

Our Success

The Alafia Bank hosts the largest Brown Pelican colony in the Tampa Bay region and is an important multi-species bird nesting island for the entire Gulf region. Storms and boat wakes have eroded the shorelines of islands used as nesting habitat by not only Brown Pelicans, but also terns, shorebirds, and wading birds.

In an effort to stabilize the islands without losing natural shoreline, Audubon has teamed up with The Mosaic Company, Port Tampa Bay, Living Shorelines Solutions, and Reef Innovations to install additional reef breakwaters to reduce onshore wave energy, trap sediment, and gain shoreline width. In addition to reducing erosion, breakwaters produce calm water between the shore and the island, creating fertile ground for seagrass, which acts as an underwater nursery for crustaceans, fish, and other organisms.

Once complete, the new living shoreline will provide shelter for Brown Pelicans into the future, providing additional nesting habitat not only for the birds born here, but also for those relocated after the Deepwater Horizon Spill.

Photo: Linda Conroy/Audubon Photography Awards.

What can I do?

Join a coastal cleanup, and tell your friends and family about the strange items that end up in our natural ecosystems each year. To reduce plastic consumption, avoid single-use items all together, re-use what you can, and recycle whenever possible.

Volunteer to help remove fishing line or start your own program to work at local piers and harbors.

Photo: Dennis Werntz/Audubon Photography Awards.


We already know what we need to do to help the birds we love.

Protect the places birds need now and in the future.

In addition to taking personal action at home, we must urge action at state and federal levels to address the root causes of a changing climate.

We know how to reduce global warming and already have a lot of the tools and solutions at our fingertips — what we need are more people who are committed to making sure those solutions are put into practice.

Audubon’s work is solutions-driven rather than by ideology. We understand how overwhelmed a lot of people feel by more bad climate news. Birds tell us; it’s time to act, and there is still time to get this right if we take action now and demand action from our elected officials at every level of government.

We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions at an urgent speed and on a wide scale from every sector of the economy — electricity generation, agriculture, transportation, commercial and residential buildings, and industrial processes.

There are five actions we must take:

1. Reduce your use of energy at home and ask your elected officials to support energy-saving policies that reduce the overall demand for electricity.

2. Ask your elected officials to expand consumer-driven clean energy development that grows jobs in your community.

3. Reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. In order to drive down carbon emissions, we will need economy-wide solutions that address every sector of the economy — like a fee on carbon. Another option is to address carbon emissions one sector at a time, like setting a clean-energy standard for electricity generation.

4. Advocate for natural solutions, such as increasing marshlands along coasts and rivers to absorb soaking rains from stronger hurricanes to help adapt our communities and landscapes to climate change.

5. Ask elected leaders to be climate and conservation champions:

- Tell your elected officials that climate and conservation are election issues for you.

- If you think your elected official is already supportive of clean energy and natural solutions — urge them to do more than vote in favor—be a clean energy and natural solution leader.

Find Model Ordinances to Use in Your Community

Change begins with you! Changes at the local level can add up to big savings—in greenhouse gas emissions and taxpayer dollars. Improving the energy efficiency and clean energy mix of your city or county and keeping your waterways free of polluting nutrients can fight climate change and harmful algal blooms. To learn more and be connected with others interested in this work, email flconservation@audubon.org and sign up to receive our electronic newsletter for opportunities to lend your voice to Florida and its climate.

Curious about what your city or county could do? Here are some of the common ways small communities can make a huge difference. To make it even easier, we’ve included examples—model ordinances—that your city or county staff can consider as a starting point for crafting the solutions that work best in your community.

There’s no time to waste. Let’s get started today!