9 leading causes of bird deaths in Canada

 Cats account for more bird deaths from human-related activities than any other cause in Canada, and feral cats, though fewer in number than house cats, kill more birds. (Reed Saxon/Associated Press)

Cats account for more bird deaths from human-related activities than any other cause in Canada, and feral cats, though fewer in number than house cats, kill more birds. (Reed Saxon/Associated Press)

Tweety Bird had it right. His biggest enemy was a cat, though cats are far more efficient killers than Sylvester, the cartoon “puddy tat” who made a fool of himself in his futile pursuit of one canary.

But Tweety’s instincts were spot on.

An Environment Canada study released Tuesday shows that more than 270 million birds are killed in Canada every year from human-related activity, which includes deaths caused by cats owned, or not controlled well, by humans. Continue reading

Early spring doesn’t bring early birds, Canadian research shows

Purple martins populations in northern regions are in decline, possibly because the birds have been slow to adapt to the ever-earlier arrival of spring. (Photograph by: Craig Cunningham , THE CANADIAN PRESS )

Purple martins populations in northern regions are in decline, possibly because the birds have been slow to adapt to the ever-earlier arrival of spring. (Craig Cunningham , THE CANADIAN PRESS )

OTTAWA — The spring of 2012 was the earliest on record, shattering heat records across Eastern North America. But many common songbirds didn’t migrate early to take advantage.
Locked into a schedule that doesn’t change, they missed the best breeding time, raising questions about whether they will adapt to a warming world.

“What’s new is that Mother Nature did a fabulous experiment, giving us a window into how birds might or might not respond to dramatic shifts in weather patterns,” said biologist Bridget Stutchbury at York University.

“It’s the sort of experiment that you can’t conduct by yourself, or plan ahead of time.”

Purple martins migrate to Brazil and back. Stutchbury’s group tied tiny “geolocators” tracking individual bird’s movements during migration.

Spring of 2012 was “ridiculously warm,” she said. Ottawa, for instance, had a string of days with highs in the upper 20s in March.

Leaves came out early and insects hatched early, creating the perfect breeding environment for songbirds.

But the birds didn’t come. Instead they waited for the normal departure time from Brazil, arriving after their food supply of insects had passed its peak.

“They spend a month just non-stop feeding their kids, and the number of kids they produce is directly limited by how much food there is,” Stutchbury said.

As the northern hemisphere has a series of early springs, “there’s a mismatch between when the birds breed and when the food is available, and so there’s a real cost in not getting back (to Ontario) early.”

And she and co-author Kevin Fraser feel that some martins are genetically more early birds than others, passing down their preference for slightly early or late migration through generations. If so, it could take many decades for the bird population to adapt, as the early birds gradually produce more offspring in a series of warmer springs, and the genetic pattern of the martin population shifts.

But if the birds can learn to adapt, the pattern might change in just a few years.

Purple martins are in the swallow family.

Northern populations of martins and other insect-eaters are declining whereas the same species are doing fine in Texas and Arkansas, she said.

She says the new research provides evidence that an inability to adapt to early springtime in the north is one reason.

There has been one other quirk of nature to study since last year’s warm spring. Huge numbers of cicadas have emerged in the eastern United States this spring, an event that comes once every 17 years.

“They’re seeing the fattest purple martins ever,” Stutchbury said. “It’s like eating at McDonald’s all day every day.”

source: ottawacitizen.com

Nature Conservancy buys land along Pugwash River, Canfield Creek

The Pugwash River Estuary, Nova Scotia, is shown in this undated handout photo. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is purchasing a 72-hectare site in Nova Scotia that includes five kilometres of shoreline along the river.(Nature Conservancy of Canada) Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/nature-conservancy-buys-land-along-pugwash-river-canfield-creek-1.1280684#ixzz2THVSQPtn

The Pugwash River Estuary, Nova Scotia, is shown in this undated handout photo. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is purchasing a 72-hectare site in Nova Scotia that includes five kilometres of shoreline along the river.(Nature Conservancy of Canada)

PUGWASH, N.S. — The Nature Conservancy of Canada is purchasing a 72-hectare site in Nova Scotia that includes five kilometres of shoreline along the Pugwash River and the tidal Canfield Creek.

The group is announcing the acquisition today, adding that it has protected 417 hectares in the area, making it one of the largest conservation areas on the Northumberland Strait.

It says the area is home to several bird species, including black ducks, common mergansers and bufflehead.

The estuary is also a habitat for fish during spawning and rearing, while ponds provide water sources for mammals and forest birds.

The conservation group says the project was funded by federal and provincial programs, and local donors.

Craig Smith, the group’s program manager in Nova Scotia, says the conservation lands at Pugwash Estuary represent one of two significant protected sites along the Northumberland Strait.

source: ctvnews.ca

Detroit Lakes’ Festival of Birds includes trip to Canada

The 16th annual Festival of Birds offers birders various field trips, including Seven Sisters Prairie, to spot many varieties of birds.

The 16th annual Festival of Birds offers birders various field trips, including Seven Sisters Prairie, to spot many varieties of birds.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Filled with plenty of knowledgeable speakers and prime spots for birding, this year’s Festival of Birds has a major addition — a trip into Canada.

The festival is May 16-19, and people from throughout the United States and Canada are already signing up.

For the big Canada trip, those participating will board a coach bus May 19 and make three birding stops. The first will be Agassiz Valley Impoundment near Warren, Minn.

“There is a dike around the whole thing, so it keeps the water from flooding,” organizer Cleone Stewart said.

It is a prime location for spotting pelicans, sandpipers, ravens, owls, eagles and more.

The group will then travel to Winnipeg to spend the night. Participants will need a passport.

“In other words, get it now,” Stewart said.

The next morning, birders will visit Oak Hammock Marsh Wildlife Management Area in Manitoba.

“It really is a neat stop along the way,” she said.

Oak Hammock is one of the best migratory bird viewing areas in North America. The three-level building was constructed with a 28,000-square-foot planted roof where birds nest.

The building blends in with the 8,600-acre marsh surrounding it.

Inside are an interpretive center, café and gift shop; Ducks Unlimited is housed there as well.

During migration, about 400,000 waterfowl are in the marsh. There will be about 280 species of birds to view.

The group will then travel another 45 minutes north to Narcisse Wildlife Management Area. There are developed trails among the trees, “so it’s good birding.”

Besides the birding offered at Narcisse, only for those interested, there is also a viewing platform of the world’s largest concentration of red-sided garter snakes.

“We want people to know if they’re not into snakes, they can stay and bird,” Stewart said.

The group will then return home that day.

Expert birders Carrol Henderson, Sharon “bird chick” Stiteler and Erik Bruhnke will lead the trip.

“We need 25 people for sure and have a good start,” Stewart said of those registered for the Canada trip. “We can take 50 people.”

The registration deadline for the trip is Thursday.

Henderson to speak on loons

Though the big trip may be at the end of the festival, plenty of other activities will be going on the days before.

The festival kicks off May 16 with a beginning birding workshop and a raptors workshop with Bruhnke.

There will then be a social, dinner and program that night beginning at Forest Edge Gallery near Vergas.

Copper artist Patrick Shannon and his partner, Helena Johnson, will open their gallery and outdoor gardens for browsing during a social time.

Complimentary light snacks and wine will be available.

After the social, participants will head over to Five Lakes Resort for supper and to hear Henderson speak.

“These are new locations. We try and move around and give new exposure to helpfully get people to come back again,” Stewart said of Forest Edge Gallery and Five Lakes Resort.

And since the two spots are somewhat difficult to find if you’re not from the area, the festival is providing a bus from Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Detroit Lakes to the two destinations.

Henderson will speak that evening about migratory birds, and specifically loons, and how the oil spill in the Gulf Coast has affected them.

Getting youth interested

The mornings of May 17 and 18 will be filled with various field trips.

“There are some new areas and some favorites,” Stewart said of the field trips. “We always try to mix it up.”

Friday trips include Mahnomen area and Maplewood State Park.

Festival organizers also received a grant to educate young birders, so there will be a Young Birders Adventure on May 17 for youths ages 12 to 18.

“Our goal for the last five years is to introduce more free events to get them interested,” she said.

That evening’s program hosts photographer Paul Sundberg of Grand Marais. One of Sundberg’s favorite places to capture nature is the North Shore of Lake Superior. He also worked for 28 years at Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Favorite, local field trips

May 18 starts off with “our favorite field trips again, Hamden and Tamarac,” Stewart said.

Besides those two trips — and one to the Smoky Hills Forest — May 18 will be packed with mini-workshop sessions, a silent auction, a free workshop on the decline of the meadowlark (the theme bird for this year), a free Birder’s Bazaar and a book signing by Robert Taylor, Henderson and Stiteler.

The newly formed Lakes Area Photography Club will also have photos on display at M State, headquarters for the festival.

John Fitzpatrick, Louis Agassiz Fuertes director at Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., will be the the keynote speaker May 18.

“He has revolutionized how people can find out about birds more quickly than they used to,” Stewart said.

Fitzpatrick developed eBird and other Internet-based “citizen science” projects as tools for bird monitoring.

When a new species of bird was discovered in 2012 in Peru, it was named after him, the Sira Barbet, or Capito fitzpatrick.

Stewart said festival committee member John Voz invited Fitzpatrick to come see the prairie chickens here because he hadn’t, so he’s making a family vacation of the festival.

Itasca trip, registration

For those not interested in the Canada trip, there will be one last field trip to Itasca State Park. This location is known for a chance to see a black-backed woodpecker.

Registration for the Festival of Birds can be done online at http://www.visitdetroitlakes.com or by calling the chamber of commerce at 847-9202.

Register by May 3 and be in a drawing for a pair of free binoculars courtesy of Eagle Eye Optics.

May 10 is the deadline to register for the festival.

source:grandforksherald.com

Traffic noise driving songbirds to the limit in cities

More than half of the world's population lives in urban areas, which is having an impact on wildlife

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, which is having an impact on wildlife

The rising level of noise in urban areas may be preventing some species of songbirds from setting up home in developed areas, a study has concluded.

Canadian researchers found that noisy surroundings masked the lower frequencies of bird songs, affecting the way some species communicated.

Unable to hear all elements of a song, females could perceive singing males as ill-suited mates, they added.

The findings have been published in the Global Change Biology journal.

“There has been a growing interest in preserving or increasing the biodiversity of songbirds in urban areas,” explained co-author Darren Proppe.

“At the same time we know that these areas have pretty high levels of anthropogenic noise.

Dr Proppe, now based at Calvin College, US, but carried out the study while based at the University of Alberta, added: “We sometimes find areas within cities that have what seems like suitable habitat, yet we get lower diversity (of songbirds).

“So we wanted to investigate the hypothesis that there was link between bird diversity and noise levels.”

City bird limits

Noisy but otherwise suitable habitats could be overlooked by songbirds

Noisy but otherwise suitable habitats could be overlooked by songbirds

In order to do this, the team surveyed species at 113 sites in natural areas within the city of Edmonton.

“What we found was that the number of species we had at each location tended to be lower when noise levels were higher,” Dr Proppe observed.

“The decrease in species richness was one of the study’s major findings.”

He said that the study also focused on seven species that did inhabit the area to see if their abundance was affected as the urban noise increased.

The species that were selected met a number of criteria, including: relatively common across the study area; forest or forest-edge dwelling; some elements of the species’ songs overlapped by the dominant frequencies of road noise.

“What we found is that three of the species did have lower abundances in locations that were noisier,” Dr Proppe explained.

He added that the team did find that the presence of lower frequency elements in a song was predictive of whether a species’ abundance would be affected by noise.

“This potentially could be down to the fact that those lower frequencies could be overlapped by the dominant frequencies of road noise, which also tend to be fairly low, resulting in a masking of communication between birds.

“We certainly know that birdsong and the perception of songs by females for mate selection, so in the paper we did speculate that maybe this was a mechanism these observed declines were occurring.”

He suggested that females may perceive the song as abnormal if they could not hear the lower frequencies and, over a period of time, this could have a potential impact on the abundance of the species as if adults were not pairing and mating then the number of offspring would decrease as a result.  Mark Kinver | BBC.co.uk

Advanced tech takes flight to track migratory birds

What exactly happens when migratory birds travel from Point A to Point B, and all the stops and starts along the way? Those are questions a new $3.4 million project led by Western’s Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR) hopes to answer.

Migrating Birds

Migrating Birds

“Approximately 80 per cent of Canada’s birds are migratory, and many species have been declining for decades, some by over 70 per cent,” said Biology professor Chris Guglielmo, one of the principal investigators on the project. “We need to understand how Canadian bird populations are structured across the landscape, why they are changing and how they can be protected for future generations.”

The project, titlted AFAR Takes Flight, will allow researchers to achieve their primary goal of understanding the connections between breeding, migrating and wintering locations for all of Canada’s birds by 2030.

This multi-faculty, multi-institution project brings together Western’s faculties of Science (Biology, Earth Sciences) and Social Science (Psychology), as well partnerships with the University of Guelph and Acadia University, each of whom contributed part of their Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding to the proposal.

On the global scale, AFAR will team with Vogelwarte Radolfzell, a principal investigator from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany. Radolfzell leads the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space (ICARUS) initiative.

Just as it sounds, the new technology will be capable of tracking birds, as small as thrushes, from space by using satellite transmitters/receivers and should be operational next year.

“This new ICARUS project has money from the European Space Agency and can use low-orbit receivers that would be able to detect a 1.5-gram transmitter, as opposed to a 15-gram transmitter,” Guglielmo said. “Now, I can take this individual bird, particularly if it’s an endangered species, and I can exactly track it for a full year – where it goes and if it dies, is it on migration over the Gulf of Mexico, does it make it to the wintering area and then die there? It will answer so many questions.

“With a one-year lifespan, we will be able to continuously track birds as small as 20-40 gram over thousands of kilometres and between multiple continents.”

AFAR will be the first group in North America to take advantage of this space technology.

Closer to home, Guglielmo will work with Geography professor Fred Longstaffe and his stable isotope facility. By measuring such elements as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen levels in the feathers and other tissues of birds, the team will be able to reconstruct movement and probability patterns for virtually every migratory bird breeding in Canada.

Digital telemetry arrays are ground-based systems used to directly measure movements of a large numbers of animals simultaneously and, using sophisticated computing, in real time.

Numerous receivers and radars will track marked birds in Ontario, Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, and communicate and analyze data through new high-performance cloud computing at Western. Computer Science professor Mike Bauer will create the necessary software and algorithms to collect, filter and analyze the huge amount of data that will be generated by the telemetry array.

Guglielmo said many migrants are threatened and the data collected will give Canada the information it needs to conserve its natural heritage of migratory birds as its population and economy grow.

“Changes in climate and land use are threatening many migrants, and the goal of this project is to understand how Canadian bird populations are structured across the landscape, why they are changing, and how they can be protected for future generations,” he said.

 source: Paul maynephys.org