Since the late 1990s, enthusiastic birders have been flocking to Mount Desert Island every year, to celebrate the diversity of songbirds, seabirds and raptors found in Acadia National Park and surrounding areas.
Now, as the Acadia Birding Festival marks its 20th anniversary from May 31 to June 3, the gathering comes at a time of urgency, as a new Audubon and National Park Service study identifies as many as 66 species of Acadia birds that could become locally extinct by the year 2050, if nothing is done to reduce the impacts of climate change.
This year has been declared the Year of the Bird, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that protects birds, and sound the alarm about climate change’s potential impact and other environmental threats, with the hope of preventing species from becoming modern-day equivalents of the canary in a coal mine.
In an interview, Becky Marvil, executive director of the Acadia Birding Festival, said it is disheartening to see the findings of studies such as the effects of climate change on birds in U.S. National Parks. As more and more data are released, it appears the consequences of climate change could be more damaging to birds than anyone imagined, she said.
“It’s very sad,” she said. “A lot of birders have been aware of this for quite some time.”
Marvil said the Year of the Bird is important because it brings awareness to birds and the importance of habitat, conservation, and the environment.
“It’s a year of thinking of all the things that affect birds,” agreed Michael J. Good, a Registered Maine Guide and owner of Down East Nature Tours, and founder of the Acadia Birding Festival. And that means not only addressing climate change and conservation of habitat, but also cleaning up plastic, which seabirds can mistake for food, leading to death, he said in an interview.
Among the Acadia birds expected to be celebrated at the birding festival, according to festival trip descriptions, but also at risk of becoming locally extinct (extirpated) in summer or winter by 2050 if no steps are taken to address climate change, according to climate change researchers: Bald Eagle; Yellow-bellied Flycatcher; Pileated Woodpecker; Common Raven; and Common Loon.