The impact that climate change is having on Tennessee’s songbirds

A changing climate and warmer temperatures impact the animal world, sometimes affecting their behavior and survival. The University of Tennessee is doing research on songbirds-- the pretty tree swallow.

A tree swallow hotel on this hillside-- an area for couples to lay claim to a new home where they can raise a family. Stretched across this field at the UT AgResearch center in Knoxville, you’ll find 90 bird boxes where tree swallows are building nests.

“Right about now they’re competing for who gets each box, and they have to have a box to breed,” UT’s Elizabeth Derryberry states.

Studying these birds, Derryberry with UT’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Here she gently takes a bird caught in one of the boxes and analyzes its DNA. She is concerned about the health of songbirds like the tree swallow.

According to Derryberry, “Across North America, we’re seeing this disappearance of even common songbirds. They’re dropping in abundance, and that’s really scary, right? And, we want to know something about what might be driving that.”

Birds and humans are a lot alike. Both species tend to slow down as the temperature rises. Despite this, three swallows are trending south-- an amazing ability to acclimate to hot weather.

That is at the core of Derryberry’s research, how warm temperatures and climate change could influence bird habitat and behavior. Why do swallows do well in heat, and is this ability impacting their southern migration?

“One of the things we think about is temperature and how does temperature affect birds? How does it affect them in terms of nesting and the growth of their chicks and then their survival?” she adds.

Rachel Evans is assisting in this work, a student in Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries at UT’s Herbert College of Agriculture. She checks the boxes to see if any swallows are inside.

“I would love to be able to work in animal, specifically bird conservation, and when I was looking for possible internships or jobs or anything like that to do while in school, I wanted something that was related to birds,” Evans states.

The goal now is to help tree swallows thrive, and increase diversity in Tennessee songbirds. A few decades back, there were almost no tree swallows in Tennessee, but clearly, that has changed as they adapt to our weather.

Agriculture Shows
From soil to harvest. Top Crop is an all-new series about four of the best farmers in the world—Dan Luepkes, of Oregan, Illinois; Cory Atley, of Cedarville, Ohio; Shelby Fite, of Jackson Center, Ohio; Russell Hedrick, of Hickory, North Carolina—reveals what it takes for them to make a profitable crop. It all starts with good soil, patience, and a strong planter setup.
Champions of Rural America is a half-hour dive into the legislative priorities for Rural America. Join us as we interview members of the Congressional Western Caucus to learn about efforts in Washington to preserve agriculture and tackles the most important topics in the ag industry on Champions of Rural America!
Farm Traveler is for people who want to connect with their food and those who grow it. Thanks to direct-to-consumer businesses, agritourism, and social media, it’s now easier than ever to learn how our food is made and support local farmers. Here on the Farm Traveler, we want to connect you with businesses offering direct-to-consumer products you can try at home, agritourism sites you can visit with your family, and exciting new technologies that are changing how your food is being grown.
Featuring members of Congress, federal and state officials, ag and food leaders, farmers, and roundtable panelists for debates and discussions.
Host Ben Bailey hops in the tractor cab, giving farmers 10 minutes to answer as many questions and grab as much cash as they can for their local FFA chapter.