Recently released studies have indicated that climate change and the potential effects of global warming have already affected the survival rates of weather-sensitive species such as the song sparrow under controlled conditions. The song sparrow is one of the most commonly found species in North America and there are several varieties of sparrows found throughout the continent. Song sparrows are brown and gray colored and have short bills and medium-sized, bulky bodies. The color of their heads may vary per region, but they do have a white chest and their brown and gray coloring is streaked.
The recently released findings of the effect of climate change upon the species were made possible by funding from the National Park Service in conjunction with the Point Blue’s Palomarin Field Station. It was at this location that much of the research which correlates the survival rates of song sparrows with changes in the weather can be calculated. This is due to the species' non-migratory nature within this particular region of North America.
The nature of the species in that region allowed them to be monitored over the course of 34 years, and, when their survival rates are compared against weather patterns and increasing temperatures over that time period, there are certain patterns to be found. Birds are often looked at in order to observe climate trends and their long-term effects because all bird species are susceptible to changes in weather patterns. Dramatic and measurable changes in weather often cause certain birds to migrate in different patterns, with some species having to relocate in order to find more suitable environments for the differing seasons.
The research done in the case of the song sparrow and its own susceptibility to the weather reveal another potential factor that can affect the success of the species in the future, however. The issue that was observed is that the changing climate affects the ability of the species to develop during its younger stages. Observations were made of babies, juvenile and adult members of the species in order to ascertain what effects the weather played on each, and it was found that certainly in older adults, colder climates had a greater effect on their survivability. Young song sparrows, however, are also affected by changing climates in a different way whose long-term effects may be hard to predict.
It has been found that during colder winters the young members of the species at times had to develop certain skills on their own that might have otherwise been taught to them by adult members of the species that are susceptible to the cold. Due to this, they may have to make it on less food, and their undeveloped skills may in fact play a part in reducing their survival rate. Longer winters also meant that there was less food for young babies or juveniles and an increasing level of competition between them and adult members of the species.
It was fortunate that the research was made possible due to the nature of the California-based species of the song sparrow. There are few occasions when birds can be observed for such long periods of time, especially 34 years, while in what is considered to be a controlled environment where such factors as the effect of the weather upon their long-term survival can be ascertained.