Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version



Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2021.


Copyright Nelson 2021


Climate change is becoming an integral part of our environment. Recognizing its effects on ecosystems and species’ health is important for the future of the natural world. There is an influx of changes that are happening to species, specifically birds due to climate change, and these changes are largely negative. A variation that is happening from the changing climate is an increase in drought conditions, which may have effect on the avifauna community. Drought causes a significant difficulty for species survival in all parts of the globe that includes hardships finding food and unsuccessful nesting. The implications of this problem are explored in Lancaster County Nebraska in Audubon’s Spring Creek Prairie from the years 2012 through 2019 for Dickcissels (Spiza americana). Annual Dickcissel bird counts were assessed in correlation with the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), average temperature, and average precipitation from National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) online data tools. Surveys to collect bird counts were completed in June by trained personnel and translated into GIS and excel data. Key findings from this data are that Dickcissels tended to have a lower count when PDSI values were more negative, which signifies the harshest drought conditions. I found no connections between annual bird counts and average temperature and precipitation. However, PDSI is affected by the overall dryness of a given area. I suggest that the effects of droughts on local population levels of a grassland bird suggest the potential for larger implications of climate change on regional and continental bird populations and communities. I suspect that the effects I observed were caused by drought effects on vegetation structure and composition or nest survival. These findings contribute to the overall scientific community for studying birds.