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Purple Martin perched on a stick

Purple Martin // Image: Howard Patterson, Flickr

A (sorta) good news story about a songbird and climate change

University of Manitoba researchers made a recent discovery that suggests Purple Martins, unlike other long-distance migratory songbirds, show promise of being able to adapt to climate change.

The Purple Martin’s (Progne subis) breeding range spans from Florida to northern Alberta, and the smartphone-sized songbird passes our winter months on small islands in the Amazon river, 10,000 kilometers south of Canada’s prairies. So far away, they lack all cues on what is happening in northern environments, and that is problematic because as the climate warms, spring arrives earlier and earlier in northern latitudes, meaning the insects these birds depend upon on are hatching earlier—often before these birds arrive, famished and stressed.

If the birds are going to survive in Canada, they need to arrive earlier and then breed without delay. Is natural selection pressure bringing this about?

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Biological Sciences, climate change, faculty of science, Research and International


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