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Hummingbird migration falling out of sync with wildflower blooms

Published: Monday, June 4, 2012

Climate change is disrupting an ancient synchronicity between hummingbird migration patterns and the nectary food source that has long sustained the birds on their yearly journeys.

Glacier lilies, for example, are blooming 17 days earlier than in the 1970s, according to researchers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory near Crested Butte, Colo.

The hummingbirds are also migrating earlier, but there is a lag between the two -- by the time they reach the lilies, many have withered away.

Biologists calculate that, if current trends continue, in two decades, the hummingbirds will miss the first flowers entirely.

Altering the balance between flowering and the nesting cycle could make it difficult for the birds to sustain their populations at the northern end of their range. The hummingbirds lay only two eggs per year and have a relatively short life span of two years. Within a few decades, they could disappear from the southern Rockies, researchers suggest in a new study.

"This year is pretty much a record," said University of Maryland biologist David Inouye, referring to the March meltdown, when most of Colorado's snowpack vanished during a month that usually sees maximum accumulations (Bob Berwyn, Summit County [Colo.] Voice, June 1). -- NM

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


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