Mapping migration to save a songbird
Posted onNovember 8, 2023by|, ,
2022 migration map. Video: National Audubon Society.
As the days get cooler and the leaves start to change and fall, the sound of bird calls is getting quieter as many songbirds start migrating to their southern wintering grounds.
While we may be saying goodbye to many of our favourite summer songbirds, shorebirds, and raptors, we can also look forward to the return of some northern species that find winter in Canada’s southern reaches to be absolutely *chefs finger kiss*.
Around this time of year you’ll start to see your first dark-eyed Juncos of the season (or “chunkos”, as I like to call them when they puff in the winter), and soon enough we’ll be primed for some fine owling. From where I’m stationed in southern Ontario, we may also have another great winter for evening grosbeaks, according to this year’s Winter Finch Report – time will tell!
Insectivorous species like the eastern loggerhead shrike must migrate south in the fall when food sources start to dwindle.
Dark-eyed juncos are a sure sign of fall for many birders in Canada.
Migration is such a fascinating time, and one filled with many risks, both natural and human-induced. For those working in conservation, understanding those risks may be the key to unlocking successful species protection and recovery, so of course many researchers have put a lot of effort in to figuring out where birds go and how they get there.
Thanks to Audubon, there is now a place where anyone can see the results of that effort: the Bird Migration Explorer brings together “tracking data from hundreds of researchers across many organizations working throughout the western hemisphere”, and has turned them in to interactive maps for all to enjoy.
For our part, we at Wildlife Preservation Canada have been working to understand the migration of Ontario’s loggerhead shrikes. This knowledge will help us to protect and recover our critically endangered population. You can now see the results of those efforts (so far), through Audubon’s Bird Migration Explorer, which includes radio-tracking data from juveniles shrikes released from our captive-breeding efforts in Ontario (see video above). Right now you’ll see the start of their fall migration as they move southwest through Ontario, but each year we release more tagged young, which will continue to fill in more gaps.
Our goal: a full migratory picture of Ontario’s shrikes, so we know exactly where to focus our conservation efforts outside of the breeding season.
The focus of this year’s Migratory Bird Days is light pollution, as artificial light can confuse night-migrants, causing building collisions, sending them off-course, or otherwise affecting their ability to properly migrate. If you have a lot of lights on your property, turn them off at night; or take a step farther and talk to your city council about adopting regulations that will help control light pollution at the municipal level (see here for some resources).
As always bird-proofing your windows is another great way to help migrating birds (and make your windows the envy of all your neighbours). For guidance on how to properly bird-proof your home, check out BirdSafe.ca
You can also help our favourite migratory songbird, the eastern loggerhead shrike, by making a donation today to WPC. Our teams may be winding down the field season but they continue to monitor our conservation breeding population throughout the winter to ensure we can continue our recovery work next spring.
We need your help