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Feathered Vagabonds: Facts about Bird Migration
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Feathered Vagabonds: Facts about Bird Migration

This article was written by Nature Canada guest blogger RuiLin Guo. Migration is an astounding feat. And birds truly exemplify the wanderer’s spirit – over 4000 species are regular migrants, which is around 40% of all known bird species in the world! Over the past several weeks, a myriad of birds made the airborne trek from their wintering grounds back to their breeding sites in Canada. Perhaps you've seen the spectacular diversity of species at birding hotspots like Point Pelee, or maybe you've simply enjoyed the extra birdsong around your home. With birds arriving predictably as clockwork year over year, it's easy to forget how incredible an undertaking migration really is. As we wrap up this year's spring migration season, here are some fascinating facts about feathered migrants from around the world: [caption id="attachment_37102" align="alignright" width="300"] Arctic Tern in Inner Farne.[/caption] The ultra marathon: The record for the longest migration ever goes to an elegant seabird, the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea). Their longest recorded journey was over 80,000 km – the equivalent of circling the earth three times! Arctic terns chase the sunshine, experiencing two summers as they travel from their breeding grounds in the Arctic circle to Antarctica. The high flyers: Climbing Everest is a remarkable achievement, but what about flying over it? Bar-Headed Geese (Anser indicus) migrate clear over the Himalayan mountain range and reach altitudes of over 9 km above sea level, making them the world's highest-flying migrants. The highest altitude ever though? That record goes to a poor Rüppell's Griffon Vulture (Gyps rueppelli), which unfortunately got sucked into a jet engine at over 11k m above sea level! [caption id="attachment_37105" align="alignleft" width="300"] Bar-headed Goose, photo by Dr. Tejinder Singh Rawal.[/caption] The small but mighty: Hummingbirds may weigh no less than a nickel, but they make astounding long-distance journeys year after year. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) can fly 2100 km between Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and the southeastern US every year, possibly travelling non-stop over the Gulf of Mexico! While not an overseas journey, the longest-distance hummingbird migrant is the Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) - one was recorded to have travelled a staggering 5600 km! Rufous Hummingbirds follow the blooming of flowering plants along the west coast, between Alaska and Mexico. The non-stop action: The Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), a type of long-billed shorebird, is a true picture of endurance. They have the longest recorded non-stop flight of any bird, flying for 9 days over the Pacific Ocean without stopping for food or rest. [caption id="attachment_37103" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.[/caption] The big feast: Such intensive migratory feats require a lot of energy and many birds undergo something called hyperphagia, where they can more than double their weight! Each year before migration season, many birds feed intensely so their stored fat can then be used for energy while migrating. The nomads: While most people think of migration as “going south for winter”, there are actually many types of migration, some of which are far less predictable. Nomadic birds such as waxwings (Bombycilla spp.) wander erratically within their range based on the availability of food and water, while irruptive migrants like Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) undergo highly unpredictable migrations en-masse far outside their usual range. These are just some examples of the incredible migrations undertaken by birds - truly among the greatest travellers of the animal kingdom. So the next time you hear the first robin's song heralding spring or see geese flying in orderly V's in autumn's glow, maybe you'll take a moment to reflect on their journeys.


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Sources https://www.audubon.org/news/9-awesome-facts-about-bird-migration https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/featured-stories/birds/alaskas-amazing-rufous-hummingbird/ https://www.thespruce.com/fun-facts-about-hummingbirds-387106 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3484329/Now-s-long-haul-flight-Tiny-hummingbird-travels-1-300-miles-WITHOUT-break-yearly-migration.html https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/animal-migration-13259533 https://www.thespruce.com/types-of-bird-migration-386055
 

Indigenous Action and The Red Knot
Claudio Timm
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Indigenous Action and The Red Knot

Image of Rufus the Red KnotThe Red Knot The Rufa Red Knot is a subspecies of arctic-breeding shorebird that breed in the central arctic of Canada. It has a long, thin beak for probing sand, silt and mud. Its long legs allow it to navigate the shallow waters of the tidal flats, beaches, rocky headlands and coastal wetlands where it gathers to find safety in numbers from predators. Long wings allow it to travel thousands of kilometres per day during its migratory period. Rufa Red Knots fly over 30,000 kilometers a year, traveling from the central arctic of Canada to the southern tip of Chile. They brood up to four eggs in June for about three weeks, after which the mother starts her migration soon after the eggs hatch, while the father continues to tend its young until they can fly. These unique and vital birds are officially endangered, with only one Red Knot currently living for every ten that were alive 50 years ago. Red Knots face many challenges when migrating, which have become only more numerous over the years due to humanity’s influence on the environment. Stop-over habitats are especially at risk of being destroyed by industrial and urban development projects that range from city expansion to resorts and to even shrimp farms. Recreational human activities, as well as feral cats and dogs, can often scare away shorebirds from stop over areas, leaving them unable to rest or feed appropriately on their journey south. These difficulties are further complicated by their migration season lining up with tropical storm season. [button link="http://naturecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Rufus.pdf" size="medium" target="_self" color="red" lightbox="true "]Make sure to check out our short comic illustrating the struggles of being Rufus the Red Knot here![/button] James Bay Cree Community Involvement with the Red Knot Communities such as the Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) on southern James Bay are very interested in conserving Red Knot populations that pass through their homelands on James Bay, with the help of their partners in government, research, and non-governmental groups. The habitat used by the knots is the same habitat that supports geese that migrate through at a different time.  Geese are a staple of the Cree diet. The MCFN are increasingly participating in surveys of shorebirds, including Red Knots. For the knots, many are outfitted with bands on their lets, including a coloured “flag” that, based on the colour, can be used to determine where the bird was captured.

Keeping an eye out for the colored flags of previously banded birds is one way that local people are able to add to the knowledge of this species. Furthermore, to help scientists further track the movements of Red Knots, MCFN has participated in CWS-led efforts to attach nano transmitters to little backpacks on some birds that can be detected by receiver antennae erected around the James Bay and throughout other locations in North, Central and South America. This system is known as Motus, and is a project of Bird Studies Canada that allows for tracking of bird movements in real time. The transmitter’s signal can be detected within about 15 kilometres of a receiving station.

The Moose Cree First Nation is pursuing nomination of the coastal area of James Bay within their homelands as a WHSRN (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network) site. A WHSRN is a conservation strategy created in the 1980s aimed at preserving nesting, breeding, and staging habitats. Establishing a WHSRN in James Bay would be a great achievement for the Cree, and the shorebird conservation community, who have recognized the importance of this area for shorebirds for decades. Nature Canada has been supporting MCFN efforts with the nomination, and continues to do so, through the support of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation.

Learn more about what the Moose Cree First Nation are doing for Shorebird populations here:

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Dozens of Events Welcome Birds Back to Canada
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Dozens of Events Welcome Birds Back to Canada

OTTAWA, ON (May 7, 2018) - Dozens of groups from coast to coast are celebrating World Migratory Bird Day this coming Saturday, May 12, with events ranging from bird watching to face painting. Spring is when hundreds of species of birds are on the move, with many returning to Canada from as far away as South America. “We’re thrilled so many groups are participating in this year’s Bird Day,” said Graham Saul, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “Birds go through incredible journeys to be with us, and we owe it to them to step up our conservation efforts so that they can continue to thrive.” A new report from BirdLife International, State of the World’s Birds 2018, reinforces what we already knew - birds are in trouble. Forty percent of the world’s 11,000 bird species are in decline, and one in eight bird species is threatened with global extinction. Threats to birds include habitat loss, climate change, chemical use, window collisions and outdoor domestic cats. Nature Canada and its partners encourage Canadians to take positive actions on behalf of birds, including keeping cats safe from roaming, making their gardens bird-friendly, reducing window and car collisions, and celebrating birds -- on Bird Day and throughout the year. World Migratory Bird Day was created in 1993 and is a project of Environment for the Americas to raise awareness on the need to conserve birds and their habitats. “Birds are a fantastic subject matter to engage people in nature,” says Jody Allair, National Conservation Outreach Manager for Bird Studies Canada. “Participating in a bird-themed event on World Migratory Bird Day is a sure-fire way to become inspired by Canada’s amazing birdlife.” “With the arrival all of these migratory birds happening in May, it seems as though nature is making its claim against the long winter that we just had,” says Jean-Sébastien Guénette, director of Québec Oiseaux. “It is by far the most exciting time of year for ornithologists and nature lovers alike.” Groups across the country have listed their events on a map hosted at www.birdday.ca [journeedesoiseaux.ca]. The World Migratory Bird Day initiative in Canada is a joint project of Nature Canada, Bird Studies Canada and Québec Oiseaux.


For more information contact: Graham Saul at 613-710-2819 Jody Allair at 519-586-3531 ext.117 Jean-Sébastien Guénette at 514-252-3190
ABOUT NATURE CANADA Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, Nature Canada has helped protect more than 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, Nature Canada represents a network comprised of over 65,000 members and supporters and more than 350 nature organizations across the country with affiliates in every province. Learn how you can support our nature conservation efforts across Canada
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Spring Bird Feeding: Tips And Tricks To Get Birds Into Your Backyard!
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Spring Bird Feeding: Tips And Tricks To Get Birds Into Your Backyard!

Why Feed Wild Birds? Spring can be a stressful time for migratory birds, after arriving from their wintering grounds it can be difficult to find the food and resources they need to survive. Many of the berries and seeds these birds depend upon for food will have been eaten over the winter and will not have begun to grow back yet. Furthermore, these birds will also be attempting to build nests, fight for territory, find a mate, and incubate their young. This is no small task due to natural bird habitats are being destroyed by urban and industrial development projects as well as climate change. Image of a rose breasted grosbeakPreparation While well-constructed bird feeders are not necessarily required to feed birds, without one the food you leave out may attract unwanted animals such as squirrels or dominant birds such as starlings, grackles, and squirrels. If you already own a bird feeder, make sure to clean it of any feed from the last season to avoid any mold or possible parasite growth within the feeder. Be aware of what birds occupy your neighborhood to help you select the best ingredients and location for your feeder. Sometimes changing the location can attract or discourage certain animals and species of birds from stealing from your feeder. If you do not own a bird feeder but would like to purchase one, links to purchase high quality bird feeders can be found here and here. Feeding The most important part of feeding birds is the mix of ingredients you use to attract them. Many commercial bird feeder mixes can often be ineffective in enticing more desirable bird species. Products that birds find undesirable such as milo are used to fill up these mixes, resulting in birds picking through the mix, creating a mess bellow the feeder. This mess can often attract unwanted animals or form a sludgy mixture that can make birds sick, depending on the ingredients used. Ingredients for Feeder Image of an eastern bluebird Sunflower Chips: These unshelled sunflower seeds are great for attracting bug-eating birds like robins, warblers and tanagers before bugs resurface for the summer. Also good for attracting Chickadees, nuthatches, house finches and cardinals. Safflower: With its hard-thick shell it can be hard for some birds to consume this seed. It is however, a favorite of chickadees, doves, and sparrows. According to some sources, house sparrows, European starlings and squirrels do not like safflower. Results may vary according to area. Millet: Millet is a common grain that is very popular among ground-feeding birds such as sparrows, doves and cardinals. As this grain is most popular with ground feeding birds, it may be beneficial to serve this from a low-set tray feeder to attract more birds. Peanuts: Peanuts are an impressive source of nutrition for birds such as blue jays, chickadees, and woodpeckers. Unfortunately, they may also attract unwanted animals such as raccoons and squirrels. Mealworms: Mealworms are a great way of attracting bug-eating birds such as blue jays, robins, Wrens, Warblers and Mocking birds Suet: Suet can attract all manner of birds on cool spring days. It is a high-energy food made with the fat found around the kidneys and loin of cattle or sheep designed to keep the stomach of birds full and warm throughout the winter. While suet can spoil quickly in the warmer weather, there are a number of alternative recipes to prevent it from melting that can be found here as well as here. Nectar: Though humming birds require specialized feeders, you can attract them by providing them with homemade nectar, the recipe for which can be found here.

Birds and the Danger of Window Collisions
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Birds and the Danger of Window Collisions

[caption id="attachment_31138" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Sarantia Katsaras Bird Conservation Program Technician Sarantia Katsaras[/caption] Windows are one of the leading human causes of death for birds. Windows are not always visible to birds due to reflected trees or skies, a view straight through the window, or potted plants or living walls on the other side of the glass that draw them in. In order for a window to become visible to birds, it needs to be “broken up.” Visual markers such as patterned window films, window curtains, or window screens make windows visible to birds. By adding these features, it breaks the window up and lets the bird know that it cannot pass through. [caption id="attachment_33763" align="alignright" width="225"]This photo is of 1,800 birds that fatally collided with windows in Ottawa this past year. This photo is of 1,800 birds that fatally collided with windows in Ottawa this past year. Demonstration put on by Safe Wings Ottawa/[/caption] As many as one billion birds fatally collide with windows in North America annually. According to Safe Wings Ottawa, as many as 250,000 birds are killed by windows every year in Ottawa and Gatineau alone. Most window collisions occur during the fall and spring when the birds are migrating. In 2016 there were 101 different species of birds recorded in Ottawa. This includes species at risk such as the Peregrine Falcon, Chimney Swift, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Wood Thrush, Rusty Blackbird, and Canada Warbler. FLAP Canada estimates that 1 to 10 birds die per building, per year. For reasons currently unknown, the Canada Warbler is highly vulnerable to window collisions compared to the average species. Canada Warblers are at 17.9 times greater risk of colliding with all building types, 25.8 times greater risk of colliding with high-rise buildings, and 46.7 times greater risk of colliding with low-rise buildings. The Canada Warbler is a threatened species and its population cannot withstand this easily preventable threat. Interestingly, birds are more susceptible to low-rise buildings than high-rise buildings. Birds typically collide with windows between 50 to 60 feet tall. Make your windows at home visible to birds by taking these steps To learn more about this issue and this significant threat to birds visit our Save Bird Lives page.

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Nature In Spring
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Nature In Spring

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern[/caption]

This blog was written by Nature Canada member Steve Gahbauer and edited by our Professional Writing Intern, Blair Scott. 

I hope all of you had a relaxing long weekend at Easter, good maple syrup outings, and an enjoyable March break. I also hope that you have not missed the nature events of January and February – male raccoons leaving their winter dens to search for females; Eastern Grey Squirrels starting their first annual breeding season; Snowy Owls returning to their Arctic breeding grounds. And I trust you did not forget to celebrate Earth Hour on March 19. In our region – around the Rouge Urban National Park – we had a mild winter with very little snow and only a few extremely cold days. But now it is spring. Each season has its own beauty and wonder, but there is something special about spring. Ephemeral wetlands form, teeming with biodiversity and supporting a number of rare plants and animals. At winter’s end, tiny frogs with big voices awake from hibernation to sing their songs of spring in search of food and mates. This is the time when we reconnect with nature after the long, dark winter days. This is when we are ready to rediscover wild places; when we are reminded how important it is to protect and conserve them. There is something thrilling about caring for our few remaining wild places and keeping them that way – forests that have not been logged; wetlands where the only soundtrack is the buzz of dragonfly wings; and streams where the most regular anglers are Kingfishers. As Doug Larson says, “spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe-full of sludge.” [caption id="attachment_22401" align="alignright" width="243"]Magnolia Warbler, birds, perch Magnolia Warbler perched on a branch.[/caption] But spring is also a very dangerous time for migrating birds. Birds have migrated for centuries along very particular flight corridors. Unfortunately, as our cities and suburbs have expanded, and as our buildings have reached greater heights, birds have stayed the course – to their peril. Ornithologists have identified collisions with human-built structures to be a leading cause of death for birds in North America. Every year, approximately 25 million birds fatally collide into the windows of homes, offices, stores, cottages and buildings in Canada. As migratory birds make their way home to Canada, they often do so under the cover of darkness. But when bad weather hits — particularly high cloud cover, precipitation or fog — these birds are forced to fly at lower altitudes where they’ll be attracted to tall lit buildings, communication towers, light beams at airports and lighthouses. When you’re flying at up to 50 km/h, you don’t have much of a chance of survival when you strike glass head on. In fact, most birds die upon impact due to brain damage, and the lucky ones that survive a collision can easily become trapped in streams of artificial lights — flapping in the beam until they collapse from exhaustion or become disoriented. Special Note:  The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Birds Convention between Canada and the United States, which was the first international treaty to conserve wildlife, with a focus on the skies. Unfortunately, many important winged species are at risk of becoming endangered due to multiple threats including habitat loss, impacts from pesticides and climate change. As CWF’s national Wildlife Week ambassador, Yasmin Warsame says, “We need to act now to conserve wildlife for future generations.” Our winged friends give us so much: songbirds let us know sunnier days are on the way, butterflies visit our flower gardens, bats snack on pesky mosquitoes in our backyards, and bees are so crucial to the pollination process – one in three bites of food we eat can be attributed to the work of these busy insects. Have a great Spring season and keep in touch with nature.
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Celebrating Our Migratory Birds
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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

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The world is lacking on the protection of migratory birds
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The world is lacking on the protection of 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] It is said that more than 90% of the world's migratory birds are inadequately protected due to a lack of coordinated conservation efforts across the globe. A new study recently came out in Science calling for a higher level of collaboration around the world to help save migratory birds, as many of them are at risk of extinction. The research had indicated huge gaps in the conservation of these birds since some countries have ranges well covered by protected areas and while others do not. From the 1,451 migratory bird species, it was said that 1,324 of them have improper protection in at least one part of their migratory journey. Two species were even indicated as having no protection whatsoever! Photo of an Arctic Tern As a result, there has been a major impact on the populations. Half of migratory bird species are experiencing a significant drop in population, and they have been for the last 30 years. These bird species rely on the various habitats in each country for breeding, food, and rest so it is key to ensure that they have the appropriate protection. So just how far do migratory birds travel? The Arctic Tern may be the one that is most noted for the distance it travels. It is said that in their lifetime, the Arctic Tern flies the equivalent to the moon and back three times. Other birds such as the Blackpoll warbler flies three days nonstop from eastern Canada all the way down to South America! This goes to show how important these areas are and the great length they go through to get there. For 75 years, Nature Canada has worked to protect habitat for species at risk in Canada and internationally. Nature Canada is the Canadian co-partner in Birdlife International and implements the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area program with BSC and regional partners. With our work in this program, we want to preserve birds and their habitats so that we can continue to learn more from these feathered creatures. Read the full article from Birdlife International. Email Signup

Bird Tweet of the Week: Ovenbird
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Bird Tweet of the Week: Ovenbird

[caption id="attachment_22511" align="alignleft" width="300"]Photo by: Jerry Oldenettel Photo by: Jerry Oldenettel[/caption] With parents breathing a collective sigh of relief as the new school year begins, it is timely to feature the Ovenbird. Why is that? Find out in this weeks segment! Each week we introduce a new bird from the Ottawa-Gatineau area through our segment on CBC Radio’s In Town and Out. Alex MacDonald, Nature Canada’s Manager of Protected Areas, shares interesting facts about the birds that live in our communities. Be sure to tune-in to “Bird Tweet of the Week” on CBC Radio One 91.5 FM on Saturday mornings from 6am to 9am and listen to past episodes on our website. This episode aired on Saturday, September 12th, 2015.   Email Signup

Climate change impacting birds – Interview on Banff Centre Radio
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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

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