Questions for ‘As the tropics warm, some birds are shrinking’

a collared puffbird perched on a human hand

Many tropical birds, such as this collared puffbird (Bucco capensis), are shrinking in size. The change may help these birds stay cool as their climate warms.

V. Jirinec

To accompany As the tropics warm, some birds are shrinking’  


Before Reading:

  1. What does the term “climate change” mean? In your opinion, how concerned should people be about climate change? In one sentence, explain your answer. How much do you feel that climate change affects you personally? A lot? A little? Or not at all?
  2. What is your favorite bird? What do you like about it? Describe a place where you might find this bird in the wild. If the average temperatures of this place increased, how might that change affect this bird? What new problem might this bird encounter?

During Reading:

  1. Why did the researchers choose Brazil’s Amazon rainforest for their study location?
  2. Have average body weights of tropical bird species in this study increased, decreased or remained the same? How has wing length for some species changed?  
  3. What does an ornithologist study?
  4. On average, how does one expect the body size of cold-climate animals to compare with the body size of warm-climate animals?
  5. Vitek Jirinec says that the “dry season is really stressful for birds?” What evidence from the study supports his conclusion?
  6. What hypothesis does Jirinec offer for why wing lengths in some species may have changed?

After Reading:

  1. Pick a rainforest animal. If climate change impacted that animal in exactly the same way that it impacted the birds of this study, how might that animal species change? What new problems might that animal have as a result?
  2. Imagine you are a researcher studying a lavender-colored frog species that lives in a remote rainforest. You’ve studied these frogs for years, and you’ve seen the species change over time, slowly losing their lavender hue for dishwater grey. Your evidence suggests that climate change is the cause. Back home, you try to tell others. But they shrug you off. Since they never see these frogs for themselves, they don’t care. What might you say to them to persuade them to care?  In what way might this frog researcher’s problem be similar to problems other researchers, such as those in the tropical bird study, might encounter?

Lillian Steenblik Hwang is the associate digital editor for Science News for Explores. She has a bachelor's degree in biology (and a minor in chemistry) from Georgia State University and a master's degree in in science journalism from Boston University.