May 13, 2015 – As the region finally warms up after its second consecutive winter of record cold temperatures, thousands of migrating songbirds are passing through, en route to breeding grounds in the north. Dozens of species will be making their way across Mississauga’s Lake Ontario shoreline over the next couple of weeks.
The Lake Ontario shoreline is an important pit stop for the travelling birds along two major routes — the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways. These are the flight paths that thousands of birds take as they travel the long distances between their winter homes in south and central America and summer homes in the north.
In Mississauga, the birds must stop to rest and refuel after making the trek from the south and the long journey over the lake.
The shore is not always as hospitable as it could be for migrating birds. Challenges include a lack of native plants for food and shelter and threats from domestic pets, plate glass windows and nighttime lights that interfere with navigation.
These urban hazards, combined with climate change, limit the availability of rest areas and food for migrating birds. More sensitive species, such as warblers, are most impacted.
Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) has been studying the water quality, quantity and wildlife habitat of the shoreline as part of its Lake Ontario Integrated Shoreline Strategy.
“We have learned that there are many more birds passing through the area than we previously thought,” said Kate Hayes, Manager of Aquatic and Wetland Ecosystem Restoration for CVC. “Many species stop overnight and are gone before even the most ardent birdwatchers have risen. Taking action to make our neighbourhoods more bird-friendly is very important.”
Protecting Migrating Birds
There are simple things that homeowners can do to provide respite to these birds:
- Eliminate use of herbicides, which poison birds
- Plant native plants to create healthy habitat
- Provide cover by creating sheltered trees/branches for resting
- Create or protect water sources for bathing/drinking
- Landscape for birds by using native trees and shrubs for resting, feeding and singing
- Keep cats indoors and dogs leashed in natural areas to reduce threat from predators
- Prevent window collisions by covering the outside of windows with screens, films or ribbons that clearly mark the glass.
- Help birds stay on course by turning off indoor lights and closing blinds
Even small spots of green space can make a difference. Backyards, parks and natural areas can create a connected patchwork of rest stops that can help birds survive the long journey.
For those who want to try their hand at identifying visiting birds, Credit Valley Conservation has also developed a spotter guide that lists 32 species of migrating songbirds that are often seen in the area. (www.creditvalleyca.ca/songbirds)
Conservation authorities are a provincial/ municipal partnership. For 60 years, Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) has worked with its partners, municipalities and stakeholders to support a thriving environment that protects, connects and sustains us. CVC gratefully acknowledges financial support from our member municipalities for facilities, programs and services: the Regions of Halton and Peel; the Cities of Mississauga and Brampton; the Towns of Caledon, Erin, Halton Hills, Mono, Oakville and Orangeville; and the Townships of Amaranth and East Garafraxa. CVC is a member of Conservation Ontario.
Supervisor, Marketing & Communications
Credit Valley Conservation
905-670-1615 ext. 385