Organisms living today are descended from ancestors that experienced considerable climate change in the past. However, they are currently presented with many new, man-made challenges, including rapid climate change. Migration and reproduction of many avian species are controlled by endogenous mechanisms that have been under intense selection over time to ensure that arrival to and departure from breeding grounds is synchronized with moderate temperatures, peak food availability and availability of nesting sites. The timing of egg laying is determined, usually by both endogenous clocks and local factors, so that food availability is near optimal for raising young. Climate change is causing mismatches in food supplies, snow cover and other factors that could severely impact successful migration and reproduction of avian populations unless they are able to adjust to new conditions. Resident (non-migratory) birds also face challenges if precipitation and/or temperature patterns vary in ways that result in mismatches of food and breeding. Predictions that many existing climates will disappear and novel climates will appear in the future suggest that communities will be dramatically restructured by extinctions and changes in range distributions. Species that persist into future climates may be able to do so in part owing to the genetic heritage passed down from ancestors who survived climate changes in the past.