Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada
Time To Fly South – The Wondrous World Of Bird Migration
News

Time To Fly South – The Wondrous World Of Bird Migration

This blog is written by Nature Canada member Steve Gahbauer and edited by Sam Nurse.  The summer peak is now long behind us. The sunlight is a little weaker, the flowers are drooping, the leaves of deciduous trees turn a brilliant colour and darkness creeps a little closer with each passing day. Nature is winding down and fall is here. [caption id="attachment_24879" align="alignright" width="374"]Hooded Merganser Pair Photo from Flickr, Christopher L. Wood[/caption] On crisp fall nights, shoals of Three-spine Sticklebacks sparkle in the moonlight, and Hooded Mergansers will make their annual visit. Noisy Greater Yellowlegs, returning from northern breeding grounds in August, linger until late November. A bit earlier, Ring-billed Gulls, that nest west of the Great Lakes, are winding up their migration to California and Mexico. By late November, Striped Skunks are looking for deep dens to spend the winter. By mid-December the breeding season is over for White-tailed Deer and female Red Foxes look for suitable dens. This is also the time of big bird migration, one of the most extraordinary events in the natural world. It begins at the end of August and ends in late fall. Raptor migration peaks in September and October *. Every year, thousands of birds migrate along the main flyways. The scale of the avian movement is truly awesome. Billions of birds navigate mountains, oceans, deserts and adverse weather systems on their remarkable journeys. Arctic Terns fly some 17,700 kilometres in their circumpolar migration throughout their lifetime between their winter abode in Antarctica and their breeding grounds in northern Canada and Greenland. Non-stop distance flown by Hudsonian Godwits are up to 12,800 km. Semi-palmated Sandpipers fly 96 hours non-stop from the Bay of Fundy to South America. Whimbrels are among nature’s most impressive wayfarers. They breed in the northern wetlands and tundra around James Bay and Hudson Bay and winter more than half a world away in Brazil. A few years ago, one banded Whimbrel was tracked covering 5,057 km in 143 hours at an average flight speed of more than 35 km/h! [caption id="attachment_3748" align="alignleft" width="320"]Image of an Arctic Tern Photo of an Arctic Tern[/caption] Of the birds that breed in Canada, 90% migrate. Shorebirds, like the ones mentioned above, are the most accomplished travellers. For most migrating birds, the journey takes three to four weeks. What helps them to make those long and arduous migrant flights is the way they breathe. Another thing that makes migration flights possible is the great versatility of a bird’s wings. To conserve energy, birds have to do their wing-beating in flight as economically as possible. One simple method of achieving that is to stop beating wings every now and then or regularly interrupt rapid wing beats. Bigger and heavier birds have developed other ways to economize on their wing beats like gliding in flight. Raptors and pelicans are known to do this regularly. With these long migrations, birds are likely to encounter challenges along the way. One challenge for birds is climate change as it can effect them in various ways. It alters their distribution, abundance, behaviour, and even their genetic make-up. Migration and breeding times are changing, the availability of food and nesting material changes, and there may be new parasites and predators to which they are not adapted. Other concerns are degradation and loss of critical stopover sites, such as coastal wetlands. A number of migrating species are already responding to climate change by northward adjustment in their distribution, upwards shift in altitudinal ranges, and earlier breeding seasons. There needs to be a stronger focus on conservation and education. We know so little about our feathered friends, but the mystery of bird migration is slowly being unlocked. With modern technology now allowing us to track even small migratory birds, the opportunities for new discoveries are endless. It is now possible to track birds by satellite, which has revolutionized our understanding of their migration routes and wintering grounds.


* Toronto’s High Park hawk watch ranks with Beijing and Istanbul as one of the world’s three best spots for observing migratory raptors in an urban setting. Other good hawk-watching places include Cranberry Marsh in Whitby, Hawk Cliff and Holiday Beach on Lake Erie near London and Windsor, respectively, the Leslie Spit in Toronto, and East Point Park in Scarborough. Sources: Canadian Wildlife Federation, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Parks Canada, Bird Studies Canada, Birdlife International, Ontario Nature, Wild City (Bennet & Tiner), Microsoft eNews, Metro, and field notes. For earlier Nature Notes essays visit www.rougevalleynaturalists.com and click on “Nature Notes.”
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Join our 50,000 nature lovers raising their voices for nature!

The Monarch on Fall Migration
News

The Monarch on Fall Migration

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Samantha Nurse Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] Did you know that Monarch Butterflies travel up to 3000 kilometers south for the winter? Every year, these insects  migrate an incredibly long distance to get to their wintering grounds in Central Mexico. Here, there are millions that congregate in a Canadian-type northern fir forest. The forest provides cover as the Monarchs drape themselves from the fir trees in the millions. They migrate to this particular habitat as it protects them from temperature extremes and dryness. As they start their migration in late summer/early fall, you may be lucky to see more Monarchs buzzing around your NatureHood. One filmmaker in Toronto was lucky enough to see a number of Monarchs on their journey and captured a video to show our winged friends!

Aside from the fall migration – you will also see the Monarch coming back to Canada in early June. What better way to celebrate their return than to help this species! Over the last 20 years, the Monarch Butterfly population has seen a drop of 80%! In Canada, the Monarch is listed as special concern under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This year, a new program was put in place called MilkweedWatch that allows you to help the Monarch Butterfly through citizen science! This program requires you to identify the location of milkweed plants, which are crucial for Monarch reproduction in Canada. By doing so, it helps researchers and conservation groups protect and preserve milkweed plants across Canada! Along with protecting milkweeds, Nature Canada also worked with the Monarch Teacher Network of Canada to showcase the life cycle of the Monarch and display what teachers are doing to help protect this species.

Have you seen more Monarchs in your NatureHood? Let us know through Facebook or Twitter!
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Discover more about the nature you love.

Overwintering Canada Warblers in Colombia display migratory connectivity!
News

Overwintering Canada Warblers in Colombia display migratory connectivity!

[caption id="attachment_31138" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Sarantia Katsaras Sarantia Katsaras[/caption] A study published by the University of Saskatchewan, Topography of the Andes Mountains shapes the wintering distribution of a migratory bird, revealed that there is migratory connectivity between the breeding and wintering groups of Canada Warblers overwintering in Colombia. Knowing how the wintering grounds landscape determines the Canada Warbler distributions will help to determine conservation priories for the species. The breeding origin of Canada Warblers overwintering in Colombia was determined by analyzing stable hydrogen isotope values in their feathers. Established stable hydrogen isotope values for North America indicate where feathers come from. Feathers are good indicators of geographic location because they form quickly and once formed are metabolically inactive. Migratory birds molt their feathers prior to migration in the spring and fall. The new feathers formed prior to migration, on the breeding grounds, contain distinct stable hydrogen isotope values from the region where they were grown. Therefore, when these feathers are analyzed on the wintering grounds (i.e. Colombia) scientists can determine where the individual’s breeding ground was. [caption id="attachment_32201" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Canada Warbler by Carl Savignac Canada Warbler by Carl Savignac[/caption] The research concluded that the Andean mountain range in Colombia plays a role in the winter distribution of individuals from different breeding populations. Although during migration Canada Warblers from different breeding regions come together they separate again once on the wintering grounds. This was evident on the wintering grounds because individuals overwintering in certain areas had different probabilities of breeding ground origin. For example, the Canada Warblers overwintering in the Cauca basin are more likely to come from the northern and western regions of the breeding range, while the birds from the Piedmont basin are more likely to come from the south-eastern region of the breeding range. An issue associated with Canada Warblers having strong migratory connectivity between breeding and wintering grounds is that they may not be able to adapt to environmental and land-use changes, such as deforestation and fragmentation. A high degree of connectivity between breeding and wintering grounds causes the different populations to be more vulnerable to change.  The Western breeding populations are stable while the Eastern breeding populations are declining rapidly. This may be related to habitat loss and local environmental conditions in the Eastern Andes, which is where the Eastern breeding population is more likely to overwinter. Knowing Canada Warbler migratory connectivity is important for the conservation of the species and its critical habitat. Targeted actions can be taken to help the populations most at risk. To learn about how Nature Canada is contributing to the conservation of this species at risk bird check out the Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiate page.

Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Join our 50,000 nature lovers raising their voices for nature!

It is Finally Autumn
News

It is Finally Autumn

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Samantha Nurse Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] This blog was written by Nature Canada member Steve Gahbauer and edited by Sam Nurse. Summer is over, people are back to work, kids are in school, summer cottages are closed up, and Mother Nature has painted gorgeous fall colours. The signs of the autumn season are everywhere. The skunks have already produced their brood of little stinkers, Monarch Butterflies are flying 3,000 km to their overwintering habitat in the mountains of Mexico, and – after growing rapidly throughout the summer – Tundra Swan cygnets are fully feathered and strong enough to start their winter migration. By late October, migrating Buffleheads – the smallest of Canada’s diving ducks – will arrive at wintering grounds in southern Canada, and Blue Herons – the most widely distributed heron in Canada – migrate south to their wintering grounds. Early November, Redhead Ducks, known for their ability to meow like cats, will leave staging areas at the Great Lakes for their Atlantic coast wintering grounds. By mid-November, breeding season is in full swing for White-tailed Deer. Grizzly Bears will start to enter their winter dens and Roseate Terns will fly to South America. Finally, by mid-December it is breeding season for Red Foxes; their pups will be born between March and May. Among the autumn birds are winter finches, Common Redpolls, Hoary Redpolls, American Goldfinches (the recent increase in overwintering goldfinches in southern Ontario is linked to the increase in backyard feeders), House Finches and Purple Finches (some will stay put and some will fly south), Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Grosbeaks and some Pine Siskins. Generally, finch movements are erratic; they are here one autumn and somewhere else the next. Finch irruptions (movement of species outside their normal range) occur in fall and early winter, tied to the boom and bust cycles of tree seed production. [caption id="attachment_14819" align="alignright" width="300"]purple finch Purple Finch. Photographed by John Whitaker.[/caption] Along with seeds, fruits and berries are welcome and essential autumn foods for birds, who also disperse seeds, pollinate plants, and are critical indicators of environmental health. Fall fruits help build fat reserves for migrating birds, while berries that persist into winter help the remaining birds survive. Fruit-bearing shrub species that birds love include Northern Bayberry in coastal areas, Highbush Cranberry in damp woods and thickets, Common Snowberry on open slopes, Common Winterberry in swamps and on stream banks and Arrowwood Viburnum in damp thickets. Birds that love those berries include cardinals, grosbeaks, thrushes, flickers and Cedar Waxwings, as well as most migrating birds in eastern Canada. It is no coincidence that for fruit-bearing shrub and tree species autumn is their time to shine, brightening up the landscape with brilliant foliage and juicy berries that draw migrating and overwintering birds alike. When the vivid fall colours are fading, the leaves will finally drop, responding each autumn to the decreasing hours of daylight rather than to the warmer days brought on by climate change. Make the best of this transitional season with its brilliant and vibrant colours, observe nature preparing for winter, and remember that the less we “help” and attempt to “manage” Mother Nature, the happier she is. To read some of Steve's earlier piece, visit www.rougevalleynaturalists.com band click on “Nature Notes”. Sources: Canadian Wildlife Federation, Ontario Nature, Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, and field notes.

Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Subscribe to Nature Canada's online community!

Celebrating Our Migratory Birds
News

Celebrating Our Migratory Birds

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] Each year, billions of migratory birds move across the Western Hemisphere to take advantage of the flushes of abundant food in breeding and non-breeding grounds. When food becomes less abundant and the days become shorter and cooler, more than 75% of our birds head south. In the spring, many species return to their Canadian breeding grounds. It’s a seasonal movement that is defined as migration and makes up a critical part of the annual cycle of a migratory bird. So this spring, look skyward and welcome home our migratory birds! Here are a few interesting facts about some of the feathered friends you might see this season. [separator headline="h2" title="Peregrine Falcon"] "Peregrine" means wanderer, an apt name since the population that winters in South America typically summer in the tundra - one of the longest migrations of any North American bird. [caption id="attachment_26341" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Peregrine falcon female by Larry Kirtley Peregrine falcon female by Larry Kirtley[/caption] [separator headline="h2" title="Ruby Throated Hummingbird"] The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is so tiny that it is sometimes mistaken for a moth. In earlier times people could not believe that a bird so small could travel all the way to South America and back every year, giving rise to the myth that hummingbirds travel on the wings of Canada Geese flying South. Ruby throat Hummingbird shutterstock_1953533 [separator headline="h2" title="Red Knot"] The Red Knot makes one of the longest yearly migrations of any bird from its Arctic breeding grounds in Northern Canada to Argentina, a distance of 15,000km. A Red Knot may fly the same distance as the Earth to the Moon before its 13th birthday. Red Knot

Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Subscribe to Nature Canada's online community!

A partial victory for Nature and the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA
News

A partial victory for Nature and the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] On February 26, the Environmental Review Tribunal ruled on the challenge of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) to the Renewable Energy Permit issued to White Pines Wind Inc. The Tribunal accepted APPEC’s arguments that the project, with its 27 industrial wind turbines along Lake Ontario, would cause serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s Turtle and Little Brown Bat populations. The Tribunal also recognized that the project “presents a significant risk of serious harm to migrating birds” and that “clearly the Project site is poorly chosen from a migratory bird perspective.” However, the Tribunal determined that the project would not cause serious and irreversible harm to bird populations. Nature Canada applauds APPEC, and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists in particular, for leading the charge to protect the shores and offshore waters of the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). The IBA is of great significance to many different groups of species including waterfowl offshore, migratory birds that use the entire south shore as stopover habitat and species at risk including Whippoorwill, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Golden Eagle. [caption id="attachment_26704" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of wind turbines Wind Turbines on Wolfe Island. Photo by Ted Cheskey[/caption] However, the Tribunal ruled in favour of the Permit Holder in deciding that the impact on these species would likely be insignificant and could easily be offset by compensatory habitat and mitigation. With regard to Whippoorwill, a nocturnal aerial insectivore that has lost over 75% of its population in Canada since 1970, it is most unfortunate that the Tribunal did not take a precautionary approach in its decision, as the Tribunal did recognize that there is an evidence gap as to whether the compensatory habitat would be of any value for Whippoorwill. Instead, the Tribunal seemed to base its decision on the fact that Whippoorwill has not been reported as a collision casualty with wind turbines ever in Canada. The Tribunal appears to have put less weight on the fact that the industrialization of the area could render it unsuitable for the species. The area of the undertaking for this project has a strong breeding population of Whippoorwill, which is isolated from other regional breeding populations on the Canadian Shield north of Belleville. The Tribunal also accepted the argument of the Permit Holder’s experts that risk to migratory birds could be mitigated and did not pose a serious threat, despite its acknowledgement, as previously noted, that “the Project site is poorly chosen from a migratory bird perspective.” The Tribunal decision and its earlier decision on the Ostrander project now stand as regrettable precedents for the proposition that wind projects do not cause serious and irreversible harm to migratory bird populations or avian species at risk. Countering the professional consultants engaged by the wind energy industry is clearly a challenge to the local groups such as APPEC who lack the proponent’s financial resources. This makes it all the more impressive that the APPEC did convince the Tribunal that the project would cause serious and irreversible impacts to the Blanding’s Turtle and Little Brown Bat.

Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Subscribe to Nature Canada's online community!

International Day of Biological Diversity
News

International Day of Biological Diversity

[caption id="attachment_16443" align="alignleft" width="150"]Eleanor Fast Eleanor Fast
Executive Director[/caption] Today is International Day for Biological Diversity, an opportunity for everyone around the world to focus on the incredible diversity of species on earth and our interconnectedness with them. At Nature Canada, we focus on protecting Canadian wildlife, but everyday our work shows us the truly international nature of biodiversity, and the importance of worldwide efforts to protect it. For example, protecting the Monarch butterfly cannot be achieved simply by actions in Canada, although they are important. We need coordinated action across the Monarch’s migration route, with Mexico and the United States. Our work in protecting migratory birds, such as the Canada Warbler, Purple Martin and Red Knot similarly depend on international collaboration throughout their entire range. May is a special month for Nature Canada members as we celebrate International Migratory Bird Day with events across the country. Next year, 2016, will be particularly special as we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Convention. Plant milkweed to protect monarch butterfliesThe Migratory Birds Convention is a great example of countries working together to protect wildlife, and Nature Canada was pleased to see the importance of these types of agreements recognized in the recent signing of a trilateral agreement with Mexico and the US to protect bats, as well as the commitment of the leaders of the three countries to protect monarchs. We look forward to seeing Canada match funding commitments from other countries to give teeth to these recent agreements and allow the urgent action needed to protect these species before it is too late. canada-warbler-2015North American collaboration is an important focus for Canada in wildlife conservation, but so much more is possible. On this United Nations International Day of Biodiversity let’s remember than the UN’s Office of the Convention on Biological Diversity is located right here in Canada, in Montreal. That gives us a special relationship with United Nations efforts to protect biodiversity, yet Canada has not signed the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. Canada has all the ingredients to be leading the world on issues of biodiversity – majestic wild spaces and awe-inspiring wildlife, strong legislation in the Species at Risk Act (SARA), a recent re-commitment to biodiversity goals and targets, international agreements to protect wildlife, and neighbours who have put money on the table. But as a country we need to step up and do more to preserve habitats in Canada and around the world for our treasured biodiversity.

***Postponed*** Ottawa children take part in a ‘migration’ parade
News

***Postponed*** Ottawa children take part in a ‘migration’ parade

***POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE DUE TO SHOOTING ON PARADE ROUTE*** October 22, 2014 (OTTAWA) - Nature Canada would like to invite media to attend a one-of-a-kind parade in the heart of Ottawa today, October 22, 2014. In celebration of Canada’s migratory birds, kindergarten children from Ottawa-area schools will participate in a guided ‘migratory’ walk from Parliament Hill to Ottawa City Hall where they will be welcomed by the Mexican Embassy and Eleanor Fast, Nature Canada’s Executive Director. Just over 200 children carrying colourful masks depicting the vibrant plumage of migratory birds and butterflies will encounter ‘obstacles’ along their walk, such as windy weather, that will raise awareness of the challenges facing migratory birds as they make their perilous journey to wintering grounds in the southern hemisphere. The Mexican Embassy will be providing refreshments at the end of the ‘migratory journey’ and there will be a brief presentation about the shared interest Canada and Mexico have in protecting migratory birds. The parade will begin at the Metcalfe Street entrance of Parliament Hill at 11:00am and will end at 12:25pm in front of Ottawa City Hall. If you are interested in attending and photographing or filming the event, please contact Nature Canada. Although it is a public event, some parents have requested that their child not be photographed or filmed and we would like to do our best to honour their wishes. -30- [one_third][separator headline="h2" title="Media Contacts:"] Paul Jorgenson Senior Communications Manager 613-562-3447 ext 248 pjorgenson@naturecanada.ca Monica Tanaka Communications Coordinator 613-562-3447 ext 241 mtanaka@naturecanada.ca [/one_third] [one_third][separator headline="h2" title="About Nature Canada"] Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, we’ve helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and the countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, we represent a network of over 45,000 members & supporters and more than 350 nature organizations in every province across Canada.[/one_third] [one_third_last][separator headline="h2" title="Parade route"] parade route [/one_third_last]

Climate change impacting birds – Interview on Banff Centre Radio
News

Climate change impacting birds – Interview on Banff Centre Radio

Climate change seriously threatens bird species across Canada and the United States according to a new groundbreaking report released by Nature Canada’s partner organization, the Audubon Society. The report concludes that half of all birds studied could see their populations drop dramatically on account of climate change. Paul Jorgenson, Nature Canada's Senior Communcations Manager, was on hand to respond to questions on the topic. Here he is interviewed by Banff Centre Radio to bring to light the challenges birds now face. [separator headline="h2" title="Paul Jorgenson speaks with Banff Centre Radio about Climate Change and Birds"] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1YqOkwpRtw

Nature Canada launches Purple Martin Project
News

Nature Canada launches Purple Martin Project

"PUMA":  Don't worry, Nature Canada is not about to sell athletic clothing or wrestle with large cats. PUMA is also an abbreviation (called an alpha code) that scientists often use to talk about a species of bird called the Purple Martin. My name is Megan MacIntosh and I am thrilled to join Nature Canada as the Purple Martin Project Coordinator. There are many mysteries surrounding the life history of the Purple Martin that make it an interesting species to study, and there are many reasons to be excited about this project which I would like to share with you. The Purple Martin is the largest North American swallow. It belongs to a guild of species called aerial insectivores which are specialized at feeding on insects while in flight. Other examples of aerial insectivores include swifts, swallows, fly-catchers, nightjars, and Whip-poor-wills. Aerial insectivores have experienced widespread population declines of up to 70% over the past several decades, and Purple Martins are no exception. Why the startling decline? The exact cause of this unnerving trend remains unclear. Mortality from exposure to pesticides, wind power projects, decrease in food availability, inability to adapt to climate change and corresponding habitat changes have been suggested as possible culprits. To add to the mystery, population declines follow a geographic pattern and are most pronounced in the north-east of North America. A decline of 5 – 7.5% annually has been recorded in the lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region leaving the 2013 population estimated below 15,000 individuals. Interestingly, Purple Martins have a strong connection with humans. They are diurnal (daytime) migrants that breed throughout North America and travel to Brazil for the winter. West of the Rocky Mountains they nest predominately in natural cavities, however, in eastern North America they are entirely dependent on apartment-like nest houses provided by their human ‘land lords’. For a long time, little has been known about the timing and movements of migratory songbirds since their small bodies could not accommodate most tracking devices. As technology improves and tracking devices are made increasingly smaller, researchers are finally able to collect critical knowledge on these birds as they travel continental distances – information which will be crucial to their conservation. The goal of the Eastern Ontario Purple Martin Project is to address knowledge gaps in the species life-cycle by determining their local, regional, and international movements, roost site locations, and post-breeding behaviour. The project aims to significantly contribute to the conservation of Purple Martins in anticipation of aiding the overall plight of aerial insectivores and related environmental issues. If you’re interested in becoming involved, please feel free to stop by Nature Canada’s upcoming Bird Day Festival event on May 31st from 10am- 4pm at Andrew Haydon Park in Ottawa where I will be set up with a booth. You can also look towards upcoming volunteer opportunities such as banding and helping us locate local roost sites.

Want to Help?

Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.

Donate