Birds Have a Lot to Endure
The end of summer brings comforting, familiar feelings like the vibrant colours of autumn leaves, the sweet smell of pumpkin treats and crisp, dewy fall mornings.
While this may be so for humans, for a migratory bird, nothing could be further from the truth! The fall season is a very busy time filled with stress and danger. Many breeding birds in the Credit River Watershed are migratory, meaning they spend the winter in the United States, Mexico or even Central and South America.
Preparing for Migration
Before a bird’s migration journey begins, it must replace its old feathers with new ones, a process known as molting. Feathers are non-living tissue, like our fingernails and must be replaced when they get too worn or damaged. Molting is an exhaustive and stressful process, however birds must molt their feathers to ensure they will be strong enough for the long trip south. The molting process can take several weeks.
Risks During Migration
For small birds weighing only a few grams such as bay-breasted warbler, ruby-crowned kinglet and winter wren, the long flight to their winter retreat is difficult enough without the additional risks associated with predators, buildings and extreme weather.
Birds are particularly susceptible during migration. Two of the leading causes of bird mortality in Canada are:
- Predation from introduced predators, such as house cats.
- Collisions with building windows.
Additional factors such as habitat loss along migration routes and extreme weather events further worsen the challenges faced by migratory birds.
Once a bird arrives safely on its wintering grounds, it must secure a territory to acquire food and avoid local predators, such as snakes and even monkeys.
How You Can Help Migratory Birds
Here are some simple things you can do to help migratory birds:
- Turn your lights off at night during peak migration periods, including September through November and May through June. Birds are attracted to and disoriented by light. By turning off your lights, it helps birds to safely proceed with their migratory journeys.
- Apply visual markers on your windows to lower the chances of window strikes.
- Leave house cats and other pets, indoors or keep them on a leash when outdoors.
- Create habitats for migrating birds in your yard by planting trees and/or install habitat structures .
When you see a bird this fall, stop and take a moment to think about its journey. It’s amazing what such small animals are capable of! Learn more about birding in the Credit River Watershed.
By Zachary Kahn, Specialist, Watershed Monitoring