Birds in Canada: Massive study shows falcons flourish, swallows plummet
Falcons and ducks are flourishing while many of their feathered friends are on a mysterious decline, according to a new study that tracked bird populations across the country.
A first-ever report on the state of birds in Canada has found that populations of swallows and other aerial insectivores — birds that catch insects in flight — have plummeted up to 70 per cent in some regions over the past four decades.
Once threatened by pesticides, raptors like the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and osprey have recovered and proliferated since the banning of chemicals like DDT.
Likewise, duck and geese populations are doing well thanks to effective management of hunting and wetlands, the report says.
“This tells us that we can fix things, if we want to and put in the effort,” said Dick Cannings of Bird Studies Canada, which was part of the team that prepared the report.
A lot of fixing will be necessary to reverse damage done to bird populations,say the report’s authors, who found more species on the decline than on the rise.
Of all Canadian bird species, 44 per cent have declined and 33 per cent have increased, while the rest have shown little overall change.
The report, to be released Wednesday by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative in Canada, draws on 40 years of data, much of which was collected by volunteers.
Grassland birds like meadowlarks and longspurs are in decline largely due to loss of habitat, the report found. Shorebirds, particularly those that nest in the Arctic, have declined significantly, some by up to 60 per cent.
The study was unable to pinpoint what has sent fast-flying birds like the swallow and flycatcher into decline.
“It might simply be the fact that they’re migrating long distances and that climate change is messing them up,” Cannings said. By the time long-distance travellers get here, he noted, the insect populations they depend on to feed their young may have already peaked.
Cannings pointed out that barn swallows in the U.S. are faring better than their Canadian counterparts, which migrate much further distances.
“The main thing,” Cannings said, “is to mobilize some effort to find out really what’s going on.”
Source: The Star