The extent to which climate change might diminish the efficacy of protected areas is one of the most pressing conservation questions. Many projections suggest that climate-driven species distribution shifts will leave protected areas impoverished and species inadequately protected while other evidence suggests that intact ecosystems within protected areas will be resilient to change. Here, we tackle this problem empirically. We show how recent changes in distribution of 139 Tanzanian savannah bird species are linked to climate change, protected area status and land degradation. We provide the first evidence of climate-driven range shifts for an African bird community. Our results suggest that the continued maintenance of existing protected areas is an appropriate conservation response to the challenge of climate and environmental change.