The op-ed originally appeared in the Charlotte Observer.
While political action to address climate change remains elusive, North Carolinians are taking matters into their own hands.
Individuals, communities, small businesses and public lands are helping the brown-headed nuthatch – a small, squeaky bird once common across the Piedmont and Eastern N.C. now threatened by climate change. In just two years, North Carolinians installed 10,000 nest boxes (bird houses) to give this uniquely southeastern bird a helping hand.
Nest boxes worked to help bring back the eastern bluebird, and now they are giving the brown-headed nuthatch a chance to rebound as habitat loss and climate change threaten its range. Installing 10,000 nest boxes shows that North Carolina’s do-it-yourself spirit can overcome the political gridlock surrounding the climate conversation – at least as far as birds are concerned.
Audubon’s analysis of more than three decades of citizen science bird counts has resulted in a compelling look at what is happening to North Carolina birds like the brown-headed nuthatch. Sadly, things don’t look bright. Sixty percent of wintering birds are already spending time farther north and Audubon estimates that 170 bird species found in North Carolina could be threatened by climate change by 2080.
Many of North Carolina’s birds are in trouble, but citizens are rising up in response. They’re putting up nest boxes, planting bird-friendly native plants and engaging in the legislative process. Each of these individuals shares a deep love for protecting our birds and preserving North Carolina’s rich natural heritage.
When I asked Audubon North Carolina member Jill Palmer why she put up a nest box, she said that knowing that the nest box in her yard could help produce up to 21 more nuthatches in the next 10 years gave her hope.
Actions like these buy birds precious time while we advocate for more substantive policies and legislation to tackle climate change.
North Carolinians have an incredible DIY spirit. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work for North Carolina’s birds.
Heather Hahn is the executive director of Audubon North Carolina.