Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024
The Breeding Bird Atlas is coming to Ontario parks!

This year marks the beginning of five exciting years for Ontario parks (2021-2025)!

We’re supporting Ontario’s third Breeding Bird Atlas – a huge community science initiative that aims to study all of the province’s breeding birds.

It’s a big job, so if you love birds and care about their conservation, we could use your help!

Royal bird.Eastern Kingbird fledgling. The second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas showed that numbers of this aerial insectivore are declining in Ontario.

What is an Atlas of breeding birds?

Bird eggs in a nest.Not all birds nest in trees! Sandpipers create nests on the ground, which is why it is important to follow trails in provincial parks.

Breeding bird atlases are important initiatives throughout North America. They are province-sized surveys that collect an enormous amount of information about where each bird species nests and its overall abundance.

A large decline in a bird’s population or breeding range means the species is facing a problem. That problem could include habitat fragmentation, climate change, loss of food sources or declining nesting habitat.

These problems could also affect other species that are more difficult to study than birds.

In this way, we use birds as ecological indicators: when a bird is doing well, its habitat is probably in good condition. If your numbers are dropping, we should check what the problem is.

Great blue heron.Blue herons nest in colonies. Atlases of breeding birds have shown that their numbers are stable or increasing across most of their range.

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How have things changed over the years?

Comparing the results of this Atlas to previous surveys can give us important information about the health of our parks and how well Ontario’s broader landscape provides habitat for birds and other species.

For example, when scientists compared the results of the second Atlas (conducted between 2001 and 2004) with the first Atlas (1981-1985) they found something worrying: many birds that capture insects in the air (known as aerial insectivores) had decreased in number. . These birds include swallows, swifts, poor-willed whips and eastern kings.

Additional research into this decline showed that habitat loss, climate change, and pollution were contributing to the problem.

Park staff looking for birds.

Why Atlas in a provincial park?

Parks play a special role in the Atlas. They protect examples of healthy forest, grassland, dune and wetland habitats that can be compared to the rest of the landscape.

In many cases, parks protect much of the last remaining habitat for at-risk species.

spring wetland

We want our parks to be well-studied so that they can contribute as much information as possible to our understanding of Ontario’s biodiversity.

Involve!

There are many ways to get involved.

If you are already an experienced birder, you can volunteer to carry out specialized surveys such as point counts and owl surveys.

If you are somewhat comfortable identifying birds, but want to contribute more informally, you can submit bird sightings and any breeding evidence you see, either on the website or using the Nature Counts app.

Person who looks for birds.

Even if you know very little about birds, the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas is a five-year project, so there’s plenty of time to learn! There are many resources on this very blog and elsewhere online.

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Tell your bird-loving friends about the Atlas or introduce your children to birds close to home.

Discover more about the Atlas and register to participate on its website. Whatever your skills or interests, we hope you will join us!