Black vultures are not a common sight in New York City, but that is changing due to Climate change. These hulking, bald-headed birds, which usually reside in southern states, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America, are now making their way north due to milder winter weather and dwindling habitat space. In the last year alone, more than 300 sightings have been recorded by the Cornell-backed public science project eBird in New York City. This is a significant change from just 30 years ago when spotting groups of black vultures so far north “would have been unheard of,” according to Andrew Farnsworth, a researcher at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.
Source: CBS New York/Youtube
While the environmental impact of the vulture appearances remains unclear, it is likely to have impacts on other species, and those impacts can reveal information about the relationships between animals, changing climate, and epidemiology. As the vulture species expands its habitat in the region, their presence can impact relationships with other scavengers and omnivorous crows, as well as white-tailed deer and other mammals that the birds eat. This, in turn, could impact how food chains in the region function or how diseases like West Nile Virus spread.
Despite their intimidating appearance, black vultures are not dangerous to humans or pets. They are scavengers that primarily eat roadkill and do not grasp and kill like a hawk or owl. However, the new presence of the large birds may spell longer-term consequences for the ecosystem. Should the vultures disrupt the food chain or displace other birds by moving into the region, the impacts can ripple beyond just the sightings—potentially endangering entire species of insects and other animals by wiping out their food supply.
All of our societies depend on natural systems of insects, birds, and plants in multiple ecosystems across the earth. Environmental changes that impact birds should be a warning to us all, and people are in trouble too. The New York City Audubon Society warns us that we should act to protect our environment and the animals that live in it. We can start by taking small steps like using public transportation or walking instead of driving, reducing waste, and conserving energy. By doing so, we can reduce our carbon footprint and help protect our planet for future generations.
The appearance of black vultures in New York City is a clear indication that Climate change is impacting our environment in ways we could never have predicted. While the immediate effects may not be clear, the long-term consequences of this change could be devastating. We all have a role to play in protecting our planet, and taking small steps toward sustainability can make a big difference. Let us work together to protect our planet and the creatures that inhabit it.
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